Conaway is known around Winfield for his skill at hand soldering. But his reputation for melding bits and pieces grew considerably over the past few weeks.
Conaway was flown to Seoul, South Korea, this month to compete in a hand soldering competition staged by the Korea Electronic Technology Association.
“They said they were trying to get all the previous champions in one place for a ‘best of the best’ competition,” he said. “They flew me in, paid for all the costs. I couldn’t say no to it.”
Conaway, 34, grew up in Guthrie, Okla., and started soldering while working for a company in Stillwater and attending Oklahoma State University. When that business closed, the owners of S and Y bought some of its equipment and “offered me a job on the spot,” he said.
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He accepted about a year later and has spent 13 years with the company, which is a contract electronic manufacturer employing about 100 people.
“We make all kinds of stuff here – airplane instruments, some professional flash photography equipment, a little bit of everything.”
Conaway doesn't actually do much soldering himself anymore, but in 2012 a colleague signed him up for a competition at a trade show in San Diego.
“Lo and behold, I won the regional deal. Then they held the national and world the next day, and I was fortunate enough to win that as well.”
That got him invited to South Korea as the only American in the competition, a timed event requiring participants to solder several components on a test board. Conaway wasn’t able to bring home the gold, being disqualified for taking too long – he said he was perhaps too concerned about quality.
“It was really surreal traveling halfway around the world for a one-hour competition,” he said. “The people there were super friendly to me. I was impressed by the country itself. It’s very clean, very organized, very beautiful. It’s like surrounded by mountains.”
Conaway and his wife, Jill, have three children: Maverik, 8; Adalynn, 4; and Corwin, 4 months. They enjoy camping, fishing and other outdoor activities.
“The toughest part (of going to Korea) was leaving behind my family for a week.”