Yukoner taps virtual reality for national award

Whitehorse's David Lister only just graduated high school and has no formal training in mechanical CADD, but he's one of the best young adults in Canada doing it.

Whitehorse’s David Lister only just graduated high school and has no formal training in mechanical CADD, but he’s one of the best young adults in Canada doing it.

The 18-year-old was the only Yukoner to win a medal at the Skills Canada National Competition 2013 at the start of the month in Vancouver, B.C.

Lister won silver in mechanical CADD at the competition that featured over 500 trades and service people from across Canada in the “Olympic-style” event.

“I’m pretty happy with how I did,” said Lister. “Looking back I can see where I made my mistake – the mistake that prevented me from winning gold. But, overall, I’m quite happy with how I did.”

Mechanical CADD, which stands for computer-aided drafting and design, involves using a computer to design three-dimensional parts for practically anything, from robots to cars, for a prototype or to be mass produced.

“Through CADD you can make a 3D model – the drawings for a part – which a machinist would make or that you send to a sheet metal workshop,” explained Lister. “Another benefit is that you can assemble stuff in 3D on the computer to see what fits.”

Lister competed as a post-secondary competitor, but just graduated high school from F.H. Collins in Whitehorse.

He has studied computer science at Yukon College and calculus at Thompson Rivers University while completing his final year of high school.

“We had another secondary student I wanted to let have the experience for further years, so I decided to compete up a category because I had some accreditation to do so,” said Lister. “Everyone else in the competition has had courses in it and most of the people I was competing against were mechanical engineering students or they have taken high school courses for several years.

“I’ve taken no course.”

So how could someone with no formal instruction outperform people studying mechanical CADD at the post-secondary level? Sometimes it’s just who you know.

Lister was introduced to discipline by his friend Denis Godin, who was the first Yukoner to win a gold medal at the national Skill Canada contest while competing in P.E.I. in 2009.

In fact, Godin is going to World Skills competition in Germany next month.

“He essentially said to me, ‘Do you want to learn CADD and then you can do these competitions?’ I thought, that’s cool. So I went along with it,” said Lister. “It was just after he won the gold that he asked me.”

Lister doesn’t see mechanical CADD as a career, but a skill to advance him in other fields, such as robotics.

“I’m probably going to use it a tool instead of a career path,” said Lister. “I plan to go into megatronics and robotics as a diploma program. Then I’ll decide what engineering I’ll go into from there. At least that’s the tentative plan.”

The mechanical CADD competition was split into four sections over two days in Vancouver.

Lister’s one misstep happened on the first day when he designed the parts he was assigned to, but didn’t assemble them in virtual reality to see an “assembly view.”

Still, Lister, who also pocketed an additional medal for Best in Region for with the highest score of the 18 Yukoners at the competition, is happy with silver.

He narrowly missed out for medals that last two years.

“I was like five marks out of 1,000 from medalling the last two years,” said Lister. “So it was very, very, very close and I finally did it this year. It took a little while.”

Competitors from Skills Canada Yukon, which was established in 1998, won five medals, including three gold, at last year’s national championship in Edmonton.

Lister was the only medalist this year, but two other Yukon competitors finished fifth in their trade.

“It was a bit of a rebuilding year,” said Megan Freese, executive director of Skills Canada Yukon. “We had a lot of first- and second-year apprentices this year, so they are ready to come back next year and win some medals.

“I think the big thing was everyone was very excited to attend and participate against their peers across Canada. I think it was an eye-opener for all our competitors to see all the different levels there are across Canada.”

Contact Tom Patrick at


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