Teen's head for machines earns recognition
A student at the York County School of Technology is part of a multigenerational machine-shop tradition that has garnered him national recognition.
Hunter Mackison, 17, will represent the state in Kansas City this week at the 48th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference, a competition that showcases the skills of technical education students across the country.
His specialty is precision machining technology, which uses a 3-D model program to design and create metal parts, such as axle mounts.
Hunter and his brother Jordan, 16, go to school, work and play together. And most of their free time is spent with their dad, John, in their family-owned machine shop, B&B Metal Finishing and Polishing in Manchester Township.
Filled with tools, motors and even race cars, the shop makes clear this family loves to work together on different projects.
“I’ve been in the machine shop since I could walk,” Hunter said.
It’s almost as if working with machines is in his blood, his father said.
“We’re definitely proud of what he’s done,” John Mackison said. “Some kids are into sports; our kids are into machining.”
And all that work is for a reason: The boys want to race sprint cars for a living.
“It’s all a hobby and a career,” said Jordan, an aspiring welder who helped create a 54-by-54-inch sign York Tech donated to the American Welding Society.
Through helping their dad with the family business, the skills the boys hone in the shop translate into their 410 sprint cars, high-powered race cars that run on dirt tracks.
The boys assemble their own V-8 motors and even cut their own stickers from vinyl.
The cars go up to 140 mph and have about twice the horsepower of the average car, they said.
“This business is to make the money to race,” John said. “Whatever it takes to make a buck to go racing.”
The boys’ father and both grandfathers before them, including the late Johnny Mackison Sr., who is in the York County Racing Club Hall of Fame, all had a passion for racing.
The boys and their dad go to Lincoln Speedway each Friday, and Hunter won the track’s Rookie of the Year honor in 2012.
Since his sons took up sprint car racing, John has settled into a manager-type role.
Although the boys dream of “making it” and racing for a living, John said only a handful of racers can afford to do that nowadays. He did it himself in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but times have changed, he said.
“It really isn’t like it used to be,” he said.
But the skills they’re learning along the way are more important than anything, John said.
“They can go to work anywhere,” he said. “It’s all life skills.”
As for this week’s competition in Kansas City, Hunter earned a berth by placing first in the state skills competition, earning a $10,000 scholarship to Pennsylvania College of Technology.
In the weeklong national competition, Hunter will do lots of math, a job interview, machining and a written test.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” he said.
Last year, he was the first York Tech machining student ever to make it to nationals. He came in 20th out of 50 students in the nation.
“So my goal is to beat that,” he said.
PHOTO: York County School of Technology student Hunter Mackison, 17, measures a camshaft for his brother Jordan's race car at the family business B&B Metal Finishing. Hunter, who does the business' machine work, studies precision machine technologies and will be competing in a national SkillsUSA conference at the end of June. John A. Pavoncello photo - email@example.com