|By NANCY VORIS
LIBERTY, Ind. — In August, Union County High School FFA students Bethann Marker and Andrew Wiwi traveled to the Indiana State Fair to compete in the FFA small engine competition.
Their task: To disassemble a 5-horsepower Briggs and Stratton single-cylinder engine, find something that had been switched and reassemble the engine.
They also had to complete a series of written tests, including tool and part identification, service manual, user skills and service counter knowledge. Another part of the test involved using persuasive sales tactics in a conversation with the judge.
Of the nine state teams competing, the Union County team was the only one to reassemble the engine and get it running. The test allowed 75 minutes, and Marker and Wiwi completed their task in 65 minutes.
But the pair had to leave immediately without knowing their score or enjoying the limelight of their victory. Marker needed to be home for a friend’s wedding.
“I came out of the wedding and went back to my car and heard the voice mail,” she said. “I thought, no way. I was shocked.”
Marker’s win was especially sweet because she is believed to be the first female FFA student to participate in the competition.
“My strength is in the books and Andrew’s is engine parts, but we both worked together on them and both of our scores count,” Marker said.
This was the first small engine competition for Marker, a 2006 graduate of Union County, who is now a student at Indiana University studying political science. Her brother was on the team for three years; she signed up to keep the family tradition going and “to beat him at it.”
Her experience helped in the family business, Marker’s Wally World, a small family fun center outside of Liberty with four go-cart tracks. She often helps detect problems with the go-carts.
“If it’s a small thing, I can fix it or tell them what’s wrong with it. Some things I won’t touch,” Marker said.
Wiwi is a junior at Union County and it is his second year on the small engines team. He was surprised at the win and said he thought they had placed somewhere in the top five.
Wiwi grew up on a grain and cattle farm where his dad is a part-time mechanic, and he has always been interested in engines. He plans to go on to a technical school and hopes to someday work with a dealership, but he wants that job to work alongside his farming ambitions.
“I’d really like to stay in farming,” he said.
The brain behind the Marker-Wiwi team is local businessman Richard Pippin, a lawn mower salesman and technician.
“He took an interest in the kids from Liberty eight years ago through the Career Development Events,” said FFA advisor Kari Beckner.
Pippin coaches the small engine students and works with them a few times a week throughout the year. As the Indiana State Fair rolls around, he identifies which students would work well together, and saw a combustible team in Marker and Wiwi.
For their win, the students were awarded a scholarship to Universal Technical School near Chicago, where Wiwi had already made plans to attend.
As a winner of the competition, Wiwi is not allowed to compete next year, but he does plan to help coach the school’s team. He could compete, however, to beat his own score.
“It was awesome,” Beckner said. “It really put the icing on the summer.”
This farm news was published in the Oct. 4, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.