Thursday, February 29, 2024

Sparks fly at SHS’ first welding competition in Springtown

Students report positive experiences at contest

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SPRINGTOWN — Quietness fell over the parking lot at Porcupine Stadium as machines were turned off and the welding competition finished.

Before then, the parking lot sounded like a construction zone — and it was. Students from a handful of area schools, including Springtown High School, sounded off with saws, welding equipment and hammers to build tables for the welding competition on Nov. 3, the first one SHS has ever hosted. During the last minutes of the contest, teams rushed to finish their projects.

“That was the longest part, getting those last pieces in,” SHS senior Edward Gomez said after the competition.

After the building time ended, Springtown students shared a high-five and signed their finished project.

“I think so far, this is the biggest thing we’ve done,” Gomez said about his team’s table.

SHS agriculture teacher Roy Stephens, who had the idea to host the competition at SHS and worked with lead welding teacher James Young to make it happen, said he was proud of the Springtown students at the contest, even though they didn’t place.

“It was a good learning experience for them to know what they need to work on to be better for the next time,” Stephens said. “As long as they can take something away from it and learn from it, it's a plus. It's a positive.”

Gomez’s lesson from the competition was to make better use of his time. Meanwhile, his teammate and fellow senior Luke Holtman said he learned not to think too much and trust his intuitions.

“Whatever you think you need to do, just do it instinctively,” Holtman said. “I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I tend to put more thought into things, so this is just more of a challenge.”

Young had a few critiques of how his students performed and said the team has some work to do.

“After talking with them, the one thing that they learned is to be more efficient,” Young said. “They’re already beating themselves up for it. They know where they were slacking at, and they know where to improve.”

Young was satisfied with how the overall competition turned out and said it was the first time for the SHS team to compete together.

Holtman described his teammates as “really good work partners” who are like family to him.

“You talk about things that are just on your mind with this group of people and get to know them better and then trust them,” he said.

In years to come, Young expects the SHS competition will grow to include more teams.

“I just think it's important for these kids to get out and get a more real-world experience and have to produce something within a set time limit and know that they've got to work together to produce a product,” Stephens said. “It gives them a different environment to work in rather than just working in the school shop environment. It provides an environment where they've got to think and manage their time and work together, maybe even working together with somebody they don't know very well, but they still got to come together and get a completed project done.”

In October, Young said the SHS welding program had more than 300 students involved, which made it the largest program at the high school.

“The way our program has gone from my freshman year to now, we've definitely grown a lot,” Gomez said.

Gomez didn’t know too much about welding when he joined the program as a freshman. Now, he likes it so much he plans to attend Wyoming’s Western Welding Academy after high school graduation and intends to pursue a pipelining career.

Holtman had a similar story of how he decided to take a welding class in his freshman year and now plans to make it his career after high school.

“I didn't realize how good I was at it until later,” he said. “It's very enjoyable.”

Holtman wants to work in a fabrication shop someday. He likes to make a wide variety of things, and one of his favorite projects was recreating the hammer of Norse thunder god and comic book hero Thor.

“I like the idea of making things for display,” he said.

Holtman likes the usefulness of welding, and he also described the activity as calming.

“When you put your head down, it just feels like there's nothing really else going on,” he said. “It's just you and thoughts.”

In general, welding is a male-dominated field, and this showed during SHS’ contest where most of the competitors were male.

However, two female welders attended the competition to show off their skills.

One of those welders was Alexa Sanchez, a junior at Chico High School. Similar to Gomez and Holtman, she got into welding during her freshman year of high school and has liked it enough to stick around. After the contest, she was pleased with her team’s work and said the group had good communication while building.

“We for sure (are) learning new things, not always try to make it perfect the first time, and then have fun with it, too,” Sanchez said. “Don't rush it. Don't push it. Just relax.”

When reminded she was one of the two female competitors, Sanchez laughed.

“I think it's pretty cool because they don't really expect women to be doing things like this,” she said. “It's like if you want to do it, don’t let no agenda or anybody stop you.”

The other female competitor was Iva Marquesen, a senior from Bridgeport High School who wanted to try welding after already having experience with woodworking.

“I like being able to say I can make things,” she said when asked what she enjoys about welding. “The satisfaction of being able to build my own stuff is nice.”

Marquesen said the Bridgeport teams did well at the contest, though she felt like they could have been more prepared in terms of the equipment they brought.

“We get along well outside of it, and I think we got along really well during the competition, too,” she said about her teammates. “It seemed like everyone kind of knew what their jobs were, and we could say, ‘Hey, this needs to get done,’ and no one would get mad. Everyone just kind of understood. I think it went really smoothly.”

Competing in a male-dominated competition did not bother Marquesen, but she liked seeing other female welding participation.

“Honestly, I think it's kind of cool because not a lot of girls think they can do it or decide to go through with it,” she said. “I think it's cool being here and being able to do it, and then seeing another girl is also awesome.”

springtownreporter@tricountyreporter.com