NFSA Top Techs to compete in vegas

Sunday, April 1, 2007

LAS VEGAS--Twelve teams of sprinkler technicians from across North America will compete for the title of "Top Tech" at this year's National Fire Sprinkler Association's Annual Seminar and Exhibition, which will take place May 3 through 5.
Ten weeks before the event, booth space was sold out, and an additional convention hotel had to be located to accommodate the more than 1,000 attendees who are expected to make their way to Las Vegas for the event.
"We definitely expect this to be the largest annual seminar we've ever had," said David Vandeyar, NFSA director of communications. The organization is 102 years old and this annual convention has taken place for 80-plus years, Vandeyar said.
In addition to the exhibit hall--which will feature 107 booths of hardware and software products used by sprinkler manufacturers--the convention will feature educational sessions and social events.
The Top Tech contest will have an academic game show format like Jeopardy. Teams will be able to confer and then buzz in with an answer. The two-day competition will take place May 3 and 4.
The first prize? "Money and bragging rights," Vandeyar said. Regional managers were tight-lipped about strategy and any special training their teams were undergoing in preparation for the event, but several willingly offered (perhaps unsurprising) predictions about which region would prevail.
Mid-Atlantic regional manager Ray Lonabaugh said he'd already told his colleagues that he hoped they "wouldn't be too disappointed when the Mid-Atlantic region walks away with first place."
Dom Kass, Northeast regional manager, noted that techs from his neck of the woods deal with very old and very new construction and thus have experience "working on both the oldest systems and some of the most innovative systems," giving his guys the edge. "The Northeast team is gonna run away with the trophy," he said.
Southeast regional manager Wayne Waggoner said it's this simple: "Techs from the South are the best."
Regional rivalries and kidding aside, the 11 regional U.S. teams and one Canadian team are made up of three team members and one alternate who scored the highest in their respective regions on a two-hour written exam based on the NFPA 13 (the fire sprinkler code).
The test, which was written by Ken Isman, NFSA assistant vice president of engineering.Each qualifying team member received free registration for the event and a $500 stipend.
"Our board of directors brainstormed about how to get more people to the annual convention and exhibit. Our strength at NFSA is our techs' technical knowledge and ability," Isman said. The contest is one way to "leverage that strength and have some fun at the same time."