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Strom Thurmond Career & Technology Center Building Construction Team Places Second in Regional Competition, Receives $800 Prize

Johnston, SC – The Upper Savannah Invitational, a three-hour Building Construction Competition, provided an opportunity for high school students to display their technical skills in person for industry leaders and to show soft skills through interactions with those same leaders.

The three-person team of Strom Thurmond Career & Technology Center (STCTC) students Jace Anderson, Chase Thomas and Madison Strom excelled in the competitive construction format, finishing in second place and earning an $800 cash prize. The team had three hours to construct a table of their own design from raw materials to a final product.

The competition was held in Greenwood, South Carolina, on the current workplace floor of competition sponsor, Biltwise.


“We had a plan and worked together to make sure everything was perfect and written up beforehand,” stated senior Jace Anderson. “We didn’t know what type of wood we would have, but we had a plan that would work no matter what type of wood we had.”

“We did have a different type of wood to work with and some of the other teams had four people where we only had three,” Jace added. “We thought that would be a disadvantage at the beginning, but in the end it wasn’t.”

Senior Chase Thomas said once the team got to work, they stuck together and performed.

“There were some nerves at the beginning of the competition, and we made some mistakes, but we worked through it and ended up doing well,” commented Chase. “We had our design, and we were hopeful we would win something with it, so winning second was nice.”

“Winning something like this gives you confidence because a lot of people don’t know how to do something like this,” Chase added. “Some people would be clueless about how to build something like this and to be able to do this in high school is pretty good.”


Strom Thurmond Career & Technology Center Building Construction Instructor, TJ Quarles, was understandably proud of his students and their achievement.

“They did an excellent job,” stated Quarles. “They chose the plan, and they worked it in the competition pretty well. They had three hours to complete their project, and they probably finished fifteen minutes early, and it turned out really well. We appreciate having the opportunity for our students to be able to show what they can do.”

When it came to nerves during the competition, most of them actually belonged to Strom Thurmond Career & Technology Center Director, Dr. Alan Gray, who was watching his students perform from across the room. The students quickly showed they knew how to handle adversity.

“What I witnessed during the competition was amazing,” commented Dr. Gray. “Early on in the competition, they were using a saw to cut the wood and the saw blade itself chipped and broke. It made a distinct noise, and it got my attention. I thought that was really going to be a big problem, but they kept right on going and it never bothered them. I was over there in a panic behind the scenes when I heard it happen, but there was no panic in them at all. They showed resiliency and for them to finish the way they did, spoke quite a bit about the program, the instructor and the students. We’re very proud of them.”


Shelby Dominick Reed serves as the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce regional workforce advisor for the Upper Savannah Region (Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda Counties). She organized the competition and brought together a group of businesses to serve as competition sponsors, judges and potential employers.

“This is the only competition like it in the state and this is the first year of the competition,” stated Dominick Reed. “As a region, we were looking for something different that would impact workforce development. We wanted to provide students with the opportunity to showcase their talent and to do it in front of industry leaders. Those two components – students showcasing their talent and industry leaders observing and interacting with the students – were of equally significant value when we were planning this competition. Seeing the technical aspects and the soft skills were of equal importance. Congratulations to the students from the Strom Thurmond Career & Technology Center on their performance.”

She says providing students with the opportunity to perform under competitive circumstances allows their talent and potential to shine for industry leaders.

“During the first hour of the competition, the students worked while the judges – represented by industry leaders – observed them,” commented Dominick Reed. “We wanted them to have a good hour to get started without interruption. The second two hours of the competition, the judges were speaking with the students and asking them questions. It was designed to show the judges how the students could give a firm handshake, properly introduce themselves and give more than a yes or a no answer. All of those things are very important skills in the workforce.”

Edgefield County industry leaders who may be interested in participating in future workforce competitions are encouraged to email Shelby Dominick Reed at

Congratulations again to Jace, Chase and Madison on their outstanding performance.

ECSD Public Information Office