David Lister from Whitehorse is just 21 years old, but he's already tinkered around with rocket science.
"I really like rocket engines," said Lister. "I've built quite a few now — a few solid engines, and more recently, hybrid engines."
So it's not surprising that he'll be one of 31 Canadians to compete at the WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi City, U.A.E., next month. The competition is held every two years, and gathers the world's best in the skilled trades and technology industries, all under the age of 25.
Lister is the only Yukoner, and northerner, to be selected for Team Canada.
Lister, who studies engineering physics at Ottawa's Carleton University, went through a rigorous selection process for his spot on Team Canada. After winning regional, territorial, and the national Skills Canada competitions, Lister competed again with the highest-ranking medalists in his specialty.
Lister's trade is Mechanical CADD (computer-aided design and drafting), where competitors must design, draw and build models within a limited timeframe.
But it's unlikely he'll make rocket engines at the Worlds. So what will he be building?
"Uh, I don't know yet," said Lister. "Competitions are entirely blind. I will find out about 20 minutes before I'm told to go."
Trades 'very underrepresented'
Lister's involvement with skills competitions began in high school. Since then, he's been to eight national competitions.
But he says he's an anomaly at school.
"The value of trades is very, very underrepresented in high school and such. You talk to a counsellor, they'll say, 'oh, go to university and get an arts degree' or something like that."
Lister says he's learned the value of trades by participating in the competitions.
"Because [trades workers] are actually what built the world around us. Without them, we would have no buildings, we would have no cars," he said. "It's very, very satisfying work."
Lister says one day he'd love to design a liquid rocket engine.
"I have been working on one, but the cost of building one is not low. So, it'll take a little while."