Welding Student Advances to Next Level in National Competition
A freshman in Pennsylvania College of Technology's welding and fabrication engineering technology major recently advanced to a new level of competition that will culminate at the U.S. Open Weld Trials at the SkillsUSA Championships in Kansas City, Mo., in June.
Westley A. Smith, Mifflinburg, plans to become an engineer after earning a bachelor's degree from Penn College. He graduated in 2006 from Mifflinburg Area High School and SUN Area Career and Technology Center in New Berlin, where he took welding courses his senior year.
In early November, he tied for third place in the American Welding Society's Weld-Off in Atlanta. He was among 24 students nationwide who were chosen to compete for an invitation to the Weld-Off, based on their performances in SkillsUSA competitions. Last year, as a high school senior, Smith won the state SkillsUSA contest and earned a third-place finish in the national competition.
After completing several welding projects, which he sent to judges in the welding industry, Smith was one of six students to earn an invitation to the Weld-Off, which also earned him a $1,000 scholarship.
While Smith said he has found completing the projects has been a time challenge he spent more than 100 hours completing projects in competition for a spot in November's Weld-Off it has also been a tremendous learning experience.
"The welding I'm doing is not just one type of weld," he said, adding that it differs from welding in a booth because of the positions he must maneuver to weld at difficult angles. "You can't just do what a textbook says; you have to figure it out for yourself."
He added, "Just the experience of doing the work... helps me to understand, as an engineer, what welders have to do."
Smith and the other three top finishers from the Weld-Off will spend five months completing another set of specialized welding projects, which they send to judges. Judging is done by highly regarded welding professionals from such organizations as the American Welding Society, Miller Electric Manufacturing Co. and Lincoln Electric Co.
At the completion of this phase, two students will be chosen to advance to the U.S. Open Weld Trials. The winner of the U.S. Open Weld Trials will be awarded a four-year, $40,000 scholarship, sponsored by the American Welding Society Foundation and Miller Electric Manufacturing Co., and will represent the United States in the World Skills Competition, scheduled in Japan in November 2007.
The multi-tiered contest is designed not only to test the competitors' welding skills, but also to gauge their mental and physical conditioning to pursue an international gold medal.