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techdirections May 2017 : Page 13

the challenges that a part presents is very different than knowing how to run a weld bead. “I want my students to understand the importance of improvising and thinking on their feet,” says Willems. “I know that some students won’t be problem solvers, and that’s OK. But in order for students be leaders, our job as instructors is to develop that skill among those who have it.” At Highland, students develop problem-solving skills by working in teams on a regular basis. “In addition to working in groups of four or five, every semester, we also try to work on a project as a class,” says Willems. “Having 30 individuals work as a group helps kids understand the value of teamwork.” Willems encour-ages his students to form teams to enter contests and events, including the A Cut Above student contest sponsored by Victor ® , an ESAB brand. Events at county and state fairs also provide team opportunities, including the ability to sell fabricated sculptures to earn money or donate welded items so that local organizations can raffle them off for charity. The potential earnings can be significant. For example, the six High-“We basically evened out the amount of work we did, and that contributed to a good experience with teamwork,” said Ryland Barney, another contest winner who worked with classmates Cody Gifford and Garrett Shafer this “victor to build a life-size sculpture. Man” sculpture “On other teams where people won Highland [didn’t] pull their weight, that HS a cutting and put stress on everyone. If they welding package have to spend time motivating valued at more another team member, they than $4,000. can’t focus on their own job.” Shown l-r are Part of being a team means Garrett Shafer, learning to recognize each oth-ryland Barney, er’s strengths and weaknesses, Cody Gifford, and which contest winners learn instructor Curtis quickly. willems. “On our team, I did a lot of the math and measurement work because I was stronger in that aspect, where Ryland is more equipment package valued at more creative and Cody did more of the than $4,000. welding. We each used our strengths, A former student and contest win-and the work balanced out,” said ner, Brett Eschliman, now applies his Shafer. problem-solving skills to his welding When high school students un-career. “Brett is welding for a living derstand that they don’t know it all, and he’s loving every minute of it,” and the skills of others make them says Willems. “He’s building some stronger instead of being a challenge, pretty fancy yard gates, working with they have taken a giant step forward wrought iron. He builds the hardest in their career preparation. ones, because his employers know land students who won Victor’s A Cut Above contest each won $500, and the school won a cutting and welding the team of (l-r) Matt Focht, Jack Daniel, and Brett Eschliman created this giant torch—a perfect 6:1 scale of a torch—and used a weed burner to simulate the flame. he can figure out all the new designs, and he likes it because he’s not build-ing the same gates every day.” After winning the contest, Eschli-man commented that working togeth-er is a key to success. “If someone needed help with something, we just pitched in and got it done. As a result, we didn’t struggle as a team,” he said. “Mr. Willems’ class and these welding contests emphasize hard work, team work, and problem solv-ing,” said Matthew Focht, another contest winner. Focht learned about the agri-science and engineering class after an 8th grade field trip to Highland HS. He thought the welding and plasma ag tech 13

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