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News: Roane State students earn gold at SkillsUSA state competition, advance to nationals

Three Roane State students won first-place honors and gold medals in the recent statewide SkillsUSA contest and now advance to the national competition. From left: Cory Watson and Dylan Tipton, first place in cybersecurity, and Kevin Spakes, first in computer programming. In background is their professor, Dr. George Meghabghab.

April 11, 2019

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

Three Roane State students in the college's Computer Information Technology program brought home gold medals in the statewide SkillsUSA competition and now advance to the National SkillsUSA contest in June.

Kevin Spakes of Kingston represented the community college in the Computer Programming competition and took the gold medal. The team of Cory Watson of Kingston and Dylan Tipton of Speedwell won the gold medal in the Cybersecurity competition.

They were among 2,400 students, teachers and business partners who attended the state SkillsUSA Tennessee event March 31-April 3 at the Chattanooga Convention Center. They now advance to the organization's National Leadership and Skills Conference June 24-28 in Louisville, Ky., where some 6,500 contestants will compete.

SkillsUSA is a national membership association serving high school, college and middle school students preparing for careers in technical, trade and skilled service occupations. Both Dr. George Meghabghab, director of Roane State's Computer Information Technology program and Dr. Markus Pomper, dean of Mathematics and Sciences at Roane State, expressed delight at the students' victories.

Pomper said the Computer Information Technology program "is producing graduates who can compete on a national level and find well-paying jobs after just two years of study. We are proud of our students and their accomplishments."

Meghabghab said the three students have been honing their programming and cybersecurity skills for two years. Their hard work paid off, he said. "Whether students seek a career in programming or in cybersecurity, our Computer Information Technology program prepares students to meet the challenges of the workplace."

Meghabghab said Kevin Spakes excelled in two programming challenges at the state competition. "He demonstrated his skills in developing a graphical user interface and impressed the judges with his command of the Java programming language," he said. Now an intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Kevin expects to be hired full-time when he graduates from Roane State in May.

Cory Watson is also about to graduate. He is likewise an ORNL intern and will work there full-time after graduation.

Dylan Tipton, in his first year at Roane State, expects to graduate in May 2020. Meghabghab said the team of Cory and Dylan "impressed the judges will their well-documented analysis and comprehensive suggestions for network security."

SkillsUSA provides exciting opportunities for student to network and develop skills employers want. Roane State students interested in joining the college’s SkillsUSA chapter or considered for the state competitions should contact Kim Harris at or (865) 882-4695

While Roane State's Computer Information Technology program is growing rapidly, there are still some open seats available for beginning students in the new classes that begin in August.

For more information, contact Meghabghab at 865-354-3000, extension 2121 or

Learn more about the programing track at To learn more about the cybersecurity track, visit

Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at

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