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Top UTC students to compete at national level

Bangor Daily News | BDN
Bangor Daily News | BDN
United Technology Center student Matt Collamore works on computer generated anamation project at the Bangor schoool on Tuesday, May 10, 2010. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A futuristic red glider is what 3-D animation students Matthew Collamore and Aska Cross, who attend the United Technologies Center, created to take top honors at the state SkillsUSA competition and earn the right to compete at the national level.

The work partners created the prototype glider bike on a computer in four hours during the March state-level SkillsUSA competition in Bangor.

Collamore, who earned gold at the state competition and a silver at the national competition last year, is looking forward to returning to Kansas City for the 46th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference in June.

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“Time management, interacting as a team and sharing ideas with people” are skills he has learned during the SkillsUSA competitions, said Collamore, 18, a senior at Hampden Academy.

At the state competition, the two UTC students worked well together and switched off doing different portions of the project.

“Matt definitely has more skills in modeling, and I’m slightly better in animation,” said Cross, 18, who is home-schooled in Brewer and a senior at UTC.

Both Collamore and Cross said their love of video games made studying 3-D animation an interest, but it wasn’t until they toured UTC that they realized their dreams could become a reality.

“I saw the class and thought it would be kind of cool because I like to play video games and on the computer,” Collamore said.

“I’ve always been a big time video game player,” Cross said.

Cross said he loves creating 3-D models and animations on the computer.

“If I didn’t I wouldn’t be here at 8:30 in the morning to 1:45 at night,” he said.

The 3-D work partners will not know what type of project they will have to do for the national SkillsUSA competition until the event begins. Then they will have eight hours to complete the project. Last year, Collamore and another UTC student, had to create a 3-D project for a fake candy company.

The conference is June 20-25 and is expected to draw “more than 5,000 outstanding career and technical education students — all state contest winners — [to] compete hands-on in 96 different trade, technical and leadership fields,” the SkillsUSA’s website states.

“Students work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations like electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts,” and many others, it states.

Teacher Valeri Clapp could barely hold back her enthusiasm when she spoke about the 3-D class and her students. She said Collamore is a natural leader.

“He always [takes projects] further,” she said. “Modeling is his love. He’s also been an incredible class mentor. Someday he is going to be working for Pixar” Animation Studios.

Both Cross and Collamore plan to continue their animation education and are thinking about attending Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts, which is a film, 3-D animation, Web and graphic design school in Waltham, Mass.

By earning gold at the state SkillsUSA competition, they have each earned $7,000 in college scholarships. Since Collamore competed last year, he’s earned slightly more, his teacher said.

“This young man already has 12 grand towards college, and he hasn’t even left high school yet,” Clapp said. “That’s absolutely incredible.”

If the Maine duo take home a gold medal at the national competition, the $7,000 scholarships will turn into $12,000. While in Kansas City, they also will be exposed to industry leaders from more than 1,100 businesses, corporations, trade associations and unions, the SkillsUSA website states.

The options for those skilled in computer animation are many, Collamore said.

“There are a lot of things you can do with animation,” he said. “Most of the commercials you see are animated. I’ve always wanted to be a part of creating a video game.”

In fact, Collamore has a concept for a game in mind, but is keeping mum about his idea.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said.

It’s no surprise that Cross also wants to do 3-D modeling or animation as his future profession.

“I kind of want to do video games, but I kind of want to do [computerized] special effects for the movies,” he said.

Both teens said they have an incredible support system at home, which has made pursuing their dreams easier.

“I couldn’t have done it without her,” Collamore said of his mom, Lisa Collamore.

Cross said his mom, Amy Cross, has “said before that she doesn’t exactly understand what I’m doing but knows I’m good at it.”

When it comes to the national 3-D competition, Cross and Collamore both said they are excited about going and are not worried.

“It will be tough … but I don’t worry over things,” Cross said. “I let them happen as they will.”

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