KAPAA — Makai Baker was surprised he was the only contestant from Kauai in the SkillsUSA Hawaii competition last month in Honolulu, but that didn’t stop Baker from winning.
The Kapaa High School senior won the Automotive Troubleshooting Contest, beating out more than 20 competitors from Oahu and the neighbor islands.
“I feel like I had a lot of responsibility but at the same time I didn’t, because I felt comfortable doing it,” Baker said. “It is kind of weird to think about how I was the only person from Kauai, but hey, represent.”
Completing a 50-question exam and solving four different practical hands-on stations to troubleshoot mechanical issues in automotive devices, Baker took home first place and a $15,000 scholarship to University Technical Institute and a $1,000 per semester scholarship to any community college in Hawaii. However, Baker has other plans.
“I was stoked, but I already have a kind of set plan to go to Cal Poly and study mechanical engineering. I felt kind of bad but the people there already knew what I wanted to do after high school, but it’s still nice to just have that all in my backpocket,” he said.
While he doesn’t have scholarships to Cal Poly yet, Baker’s Career and Technical Education teacher at Kapaa High, Ryne Terao, has no doubt that his star pupil will be receiving scholarship offers from the California-based school.
“He’s just elated. It’s his senior year,” Terao said. “He’s a really good student.”
Terao said it’s good to see students from Kauai perform well on a state level. He even smiled and said that the other categories in the competition all went to students from outer islands.
“A neighbor island sweep,” he said.
Baker will go on to compete at nationals June 19 to 23 in Louisville, Kentucky as the only representative from the state.
“I was stoked. It’ll be the same type of thing, just a little more in-depth about all kinds of stuff. To prepare, I’m just going to do the same thing and study and hope for the best,” Baker said. “We had a lot of preparation. Every week since the beginning of fall of last year.”
When TGI asked Baker about the possibility of winning at nationals, he sat back in his seat with a wide-eyed expression.
“What happens if I win? I don’t know. I’ll be super happy and thank everyone who helped me. I’m not too sure what the grand prize is for nationals, though. The recognition would help for scholarships.”