Student Team Competes at Wisconsin Wastewater Operators' Association Competition

Three students from Milwaukee Area Technical College's Environmental Health and Water Quality Technology program recently competed at the WWOA's annual Operator Competition

Student Team Competes at Wisconsin Wastewater Operators' Association Competition

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Three students from Milwaukee Area Technical College recently made waves at the Wisconsin Wastewater Operators Association’s annual conference in Green Bay as the only student team that competed in the 2019 Operator Competition event.

The team — named the Freshwater Bandits — was comprised of students Alyssa Widowski, Dragan Pavlovic and Noel Crowder, all part of MATC’s Environmental Health and Water Quality Technology program. Pavlovic and Crowder served tours of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps and Widowski has in the past worked in the plumbing field assisting her father with sump pump installations. Widowski is now a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources-certified wastewater operator-in-training and is set to graduate from the program this month.

The associate degree program, housed at MATC’s Mequon Campus, promotes environmental protection, improvement and sustainability, with a focus on protecting our water, food and air resources. Students can earn a water technician certification on the way to completing the degree.

Pavlovic says his transition from military service to student in the wastewater field is a natural fit. “I was really excited to be part of the first-ever student team from MATC to compete at the conference,” he says. “We formed the team based on our desire to be employed one day in the wastewater field, our related and applicable life experiences, the wastewater knowledge from the program and the encouraging support from our instructor Kathy Bates, a 2017 Koby Crabtree Award recipient.”

Preparing for competition

With a team formed, the trio had to start preparing for team events, a prospect that they at first found daunting. “I have to admit that my biggest fear was to show up to the competition and not know what we were doing,” says Pavlovic. “Our instructor assured us that we were ready for the challenge and that we should focus on doing the best we can and have fun, regardless of the outcome.”

A wastewater operator named Ben Huffman from the South Milwaukee Wastewater Treatment Facility heard about the team and offered to coach and advise them. “Ben, along with Ms. Bates, did an exceptional job at preparing us for the competition and ensuring that we would get time and hands on the equipment that we would be using,” says Pavlovic. “In time for the competition, we were trained well, and were ready to compete.”

Once the competition kicked off, Pavlovic says he was a bit antsy and nervous. “Fortunately, that quickly dissipated and everything that we had prepared and trained for started to kick in. I ended up having a great time competing in the competition. I would gladly do it again!

“I would like to thank Xylem for letting us use their facility to train on their equipment, as well as providing us with the hard hats we needed for the competition,” says Pavlovic. “I would also like to thank Ben Huffman for training us and helping us prepare for the event. Lastly, I would also like to thank Ms. Bates for encouraging us to compete and the time she put in helping us to be ready for the event. It was with her guidance that I was able to step out of my comfort zone in the first place, and learn new things related to our field along the way.”

Bates says she was excited to see her students step up to the event and compete. “They are my first team ever and hopefully they will not be the last,” she says. “They were the only students in the recent event, so competition was tough. They really came together as a team.”

MATC's team included, from left, Alyssa Widowski, Dragan Pavlovic and Noel Crowder.
MATC's team included, from left, Alyssa Widowski, Dragan Pavlovic and Noel Crowder.


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