Return to Headlines

Sparks Fly at 1st Annual CHS Weld-Off


                Sparks were flying in the Cleburne High School Agriculture Science Lab Thursday as two teams of seniors competed in a one-day welding skills competition sponsored by the Cleburne Education Foundation.

                “We’re calling this the First Annual Cleburne High School Weld-Off,” welding teacher Dean Black said. “The Cleburne Education Foundation gave us the materials to build two fire pits, which will be up for auction at their Nashville Lights event in the fall.”

                “We have ten senior-level, highly proficient, well-trained students—the best products of our program—divided into two teams who began work first thing this morning,” Black said. “We’ll be looking at their welds and their work to see if their product is structurally sound. We’ll also check the accuracy of their measurements and, lastly, presentation.”

                The competing welders included Team One made up of seniors Karime Adame, Uriel Montoya, Adan Santana, Angelica Tovar and Lisandro Mireles, with Corey Darden, Westly Dehart, Richard Hogan, Francisco Lorenzo and Enrique Villanueva making up Team Two.

                Adame is a four-year welding student at CHS. She’s hoping the skills she has achieved will help her with college expenses in her goal to become a dental hygienist.

                “I decided I didn’t want an office job, but a hands-on job,” Adame said. “We have welders in our family, including a family welding business in west Texas. I want to work as a welder part-time, to pay for school.”

                While there are five females enrolled in welding classes, Adame was the only girl in the program until this year. Black says this specific group of students has risen to the top in his program because of their attention to detail and proficiency.

                “I have always been very competitive with the guys,” Adame said.  “I would get some occasional teasing from them as the only girl in class. But I always like to do things better than I did yesterday. I like to take my time and make good welds. I may weld like a girl, but I am good at what I do.”

                Adame says she’s also been able to stand up to the physical work required in welding, from the equipment and protective gear to working with extreme temperatures.

                “There are challenges to this,” she said. “You can’t always see through the glass in the helmet, but you still have to keep the line steady and straight. You have to be persistent in your work. I respect the machine. You have to use precautions so you won’t get hurt or injured.”

                “Today has been fun, spending the whole day doing what I enjoy,” Adame said. “I am very tired, but it’s been good. We are pleased with our work.”

                Darden served as the designated foreman on Team Two, which he felt would be successful in the challenge because of their teamwork and communication, coupled with their welding skills.

                “This is not a race,” he said. “In the end, it will be whichever team took their time and put in the details. I think it comes down to which fire pit you be proud to give to someone. We’re working together to get the best job done. Practice makes perfect and this is giving us another opportunity to learn.”

                Darden is a first-year welding student, preceded by three years in manufacturing. He wanted to add the skill to his abilities, in the hopes of landing an internship following graduation, which would lead to a job in the industry.

                “I already knew some about welding and have built fences,” he said. “My dad’s cousin is a millwright and has helped me a lot. I would like to get an internship at Gerdau in Alvarado, which would let me work two days and go to school three days. I want to be a millwright to work in pipeline or construction welding.”

                His plans for continued study, followed by careers which include welding, are shared by several of those involved in the weld-off.

                “Ultimately, I want to be an auto mechanic,” Montoya said. “Having this skill will help me go on to Hill College or TSTC (Texas State Technical College) to get more education and a degree.”

                Both teams ended the day with completed projects, overcoming unexpected glitches that often come with the job.

                “The teams worked hard and have done a great job,” Black said. “It’s going to be hard to determine a winner because they are right there together in the quality of what they created. I’m glad I don’t have to decide by myself.”

                Black, in his first year on faculty at CHS—is also a product of CHS--graduating in 2008. He was very involved in ag science and FFA at all levels, local to state.

                “I actually got into welding as an adult,” Black said. “When I was a student at CHS, we didn’t have the facilities for welding that we do now. What we have today has allowed for the expansion of ag mechanics and welding. The skills our students are learning will prepare them for the competitiveness and challenges of today’s workforce in welding, whether it’s in a fabrication shop or on a pipeline somewhere.”

                “It has been very exciting to receive this opportunity to showcase the talents of our students,” he said. “I want the students of CHS and the community to see the level of quality performed in our shops. We’ve had a lot of fun this year. It’s been challenging at times in giving the students the vision for the product of their work. But the Weld-Off has allowed them to share what they’ve learned—and show that off. It’s also given them lots of confidence. I agree with both teams—it’s been a great day.”