Enthusiasm for competition and the future

Photo by Christy Porter
Three LHS Senior Ag-Welding students, from left: Denver Culley (wearing a welding hood), Easton Ice and Dalton Gale participated in a welding competition held at MWI, in Nevada, Mo., last Thursday.

By Christy Porter, Managing Editor

“We want to be welders,” stated Denver Cully, Dalton Gale and Easton Ice enthusiastically after returning from the 11th Annual Welding Competition held at Missouri Welding Institute (MWI) on Thursday, Jan. 28, in Nevada, Mo. They already knew this prior to the competition; they are senior students in Mr. Van Kirkwood’s welding class at Licking High School.

This was a first welding competition for all three students, available only to seniors in high school or students at a Vo-Tech institution. The students compete in two divisions. Cully, Gale and Ice competed as a group/flight.

The criterion for competition is strict with very specific rules and regulations, including a required tool list. Students do not know what their projects will be until they have arrived. They must be able to read and interpret basic welding symbols and blueprints. Two projects were required from each competitor, both to be completed within a timed 90-minute welding session. Project one was welded Tee-joints with a vertical U, using 10 beads. Project two was a vertical weave using four weaves. MWI welding instructors watched their progress as they worked.

Over 213 students competed in this year’s competition, with only 10 placements awarded. However, all participants received a $1000 scholarship to MWI.

Culley is looking forward to beginning his 4-1/2-month advanced welding education at MWI on June 7, 2021. “I am looking forward to the travel opportunities that a career in welding will allow,” said Culley.

Gale has done some thin metal welding, fixing a ball rack and school chairs while in welding class, this in addition to the heavier welding. “The competition was fun; I was nervous waiting to begin our F3 (third flight) at 1 p.m., but when I started welding, I just focused in my own world and welded,” shared Gale. He plans on attending MWI beginning in September.

Ice submitted his project within time qualifications and also plans on attending MWI in September. “I would do it again!” he said, when asked about the competition. “MWI is definitely a good school, with good instructors, and the competition was a good and exciting experience.”

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After each student completes the two projects, there is an opportunity for the instructors and the owner of the school to offer tips and instruction on the work completed. The time spent with each student is dependent on the quality of the work produced. The instructors are reinforcing the importance of the welding being done for the jobs utilizing the welders. “Our guys are pretty good so the instructors didn’t have a lot of comments,” said Kirkwood.

While there are welding positions for thin metal work, a large amount of the work is structural, girders, pipelines, nuclear plants and round pipe. “Anytime you have liquid running through pipes, there is welding,” said Kirkwood. A certain amount of creative thought process also goes with the technology and experience when welding, as the need for it may be present in some tight and unique places. Very low, very high, and very tiny spaces may require the welders’ torch. Welding, while being a vocational skill, might also be considered an art form.

“The travel and the money are key components for a career in welding,” shared Kirkwood, saying that a graduate student 10-years ago had reached his $1-million status in earnings last year.

“The Ag Department at Licking High School is an accredited Basic Welding School, recognized by the American Welding Society (AWS),” said Kirkwood. To receive certification, students must pass nine tests, which are given through Mr. Kirkwood’s class. There are currently 12 welding students in his class; Gale has completed two of the nine tests towards certification. Culley and Ice plan to attain beginning certification before graduation.

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