Area High School Students Compete in Weld Off at Hawkeye

posted on Monday, April 18, 2016 in  College News

By: Andrew Wind, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

 WATERLOO — Sparks were flying Friday at Hawkeye Community College as students from seven area high schools demonstrated their welding skills.

The 21 students competed for first- through third-place and the top prize of a portable welding machine in the annual High School Weld Off. Both the top student and the school were awarded a welding machine.

“It inspires a little friendly competition between schools,” said Jonathan Lowery, one of the Hawkeye welding instructors overseeing the contest, which started in 2007.

Participants are enrolled in concurrent welding classes at their schools that earn both high school and Hawkeye credit and were chosen by their instructors to compete. “They follow the curriculum that we’ve put together for their courses,” said Lowery. The students primarily learned the metal inert gas, or MIG, process, also known as wire welding.

Students started the morning with a written assessment and then worked on some pieces of metal in the Buchanan Hall welding lab.

“They do four basic joints,” Lowery explained. “We will inspect their parts according to the structural welding codes and give them a grade based on their performance.” They were also graded on the assessment and results from both were used to determine the top finishers.

Students were told where to do the welds on materials that had already been prepared. “We just had to apply what we knew and go for it,” said Wyatt Samuelson, a senior at Union High School in La Porte City.

Dike-New Hartford High School sophomore Chase Wilson felt good about his performance at the competition.

“I did my best welds here,” he said.

“I felt like I went at a decent speed, I didn’t feel rushed at all,” Wilson noted. “Definitely if you feel rushed, your welds aren’t going to turn out the best they can.”

He said how the work looks is important. Consistency of the weld and how straight it is are factors as is “going all the way to the metal and making contact so that it’s stronger,” said Wilson.

After completing the class, he plans to buy a welder and teach his dad how to use it. “I’ve always been in love with cars and rebuilding motors,” said Wilson, noting that he and his dad have been working on cars his “whole life.” They recently rebuilt the motor in a Ford Mustang GT.

Samuelson said he took the class after doing some welding at a job last summer. He’d like to continue welding as a hobby.

Union classmate Caleb Wandschneider, also a senior, said welding isn’t his first choice as a job or career, but does serve as a backup plan. “It’s a useful skill and the world will always need welders,” he said.

Cedar Falls High School senior Madi Harris, on the other hand, is considering a career in an industrial technology field.

“I’m just really into hands-on type of stuff,” she said. Harris has taken a number of metals classes and worked with mills and lathes.

Last summer, she started in a computer numerical control — or CNC — program at Hawkeye called EMC2 that continues this summer. Welding “was kind of the last metals class I could take” at the high school, she said. Harris is planning to complete the CNC program at Hawkeye and pursue tool and die making, as well.

“We feel competition inspires excellence,” said Jill Dobson, Hawkeye’s STEM coordinator. That applies both to the students and their instructors.

Instructors “meet with the dean, they meet with our faculty and it’s kind of a way to align our programs,” she noted, which improves instruction. “Really, the primary purpose is to make sure those welding classes are taught up to college level.”

Top winners of the competition were: First place — Adam Schwickerath, of Dike-New Hartford, and instructor Gerald Warren, who each received a new welding machine, courtesy of Lincoln Electric; second place — Josh Osterhaus, of Cedar Falls; and third place — Seth Walker, of Waverly-Shell Rock High School. Second and third place finishers each received a new welding helmet courtesy of Miller Welding Supply.

Other high schools involved in the competition were Tripoli, Jesup and Clarksville.


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