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techdirections May 2017 : Page 14

complete the fall semester. For the spring semester, he introduces them to gas metal arc welding (GMAW, or “MIG” welding) and plasma cutting. Following the process work, students move on to drawing, learning about different materials, and estimating project costs. In the last nine weeks, beginning students apply all of these skills to building a project. Ten years ago, most students entering Willems’ program had a list of projects already in mind, such as welding on their vehicle or for projects around the ranch. Today, many students struggle with imagining items that they could build. This may be a generational issue, accord-ing to Willems. “A lot of kids today have not had much freedom. They’re afraid of trying new things for fear of failing,” says Willems. “I tell them that while they may not ex-cel at welding, they will find some other aspect of the Student balances the oxygen and acetylene class that intrigues them, flow rates on a torch. such as drawing up projects or cost estimation.” lem solving in terms of leading people and understanding that when Contests and opportunities stuff doesn’t go the way you planned Advanced students focus largely it, you overcome the challenge and on projects and contests. Contest accomplish a mission.” opportunities include the Arizona National Livestock Show’s FFA me-chanics projects, Arizona State Fair, Safety First and Gilbert’s county fair, as well as After an overview of the program, other contests associated with the beginners start with safety not just FFA. because it’s essential, but also be-“The FFA has a contest called ‘Ag cause the weather is still hot at the Sells,’ where students basically learn start of the school year (Gilbert is a how to sell a product,” says Willems. Phoenix suburb). A few years ago, “You’ve got to be able to promote Willems became a certified OSHA and sell your own product, and it trainer. does feed into the things we do here “Beginning students, when they because some of my kids build stuff complete the safety portion of our and want to sell it.” class, actually leave with their OSHA-Willems also hosts a welding 10 card,” says Willems. contest at Highland HS that includes After safety, he introduces stu-some simple problem-solving ex-dents to shielded metal arc weld-ercises. “For example, they’ll have ing (SMAW, or “stick” welding) and a spool of wire and I’ll give them oxy-acetylene cutting. After that, he three or four different contact tips,” introduces students to project work says Willems. “They just have to by asking them to create something size the wire up to the tip, but they out of horseshoes (horses are very don’t have a lot of time to figure it popular in the area). These activities cutting were “really cool” and signed up for what turned out to be his favorite class. Unlike his classmates, Focht did not plan an industry-re-lated career. He attends Texas A&M, participates in its ROTC program, and plans to enter the military as an officer. Focht does, however, clearly see the value of team fabrication projects. “Being an officer involves prob-out.” The contest has been so well received that industry has come in to offer support with prize money and other giveaways. The advanced class takes on projects in teams of two, groups of four or five or as a class. “I think it’s a good experience for them, because at some point we all have to work with other people,” says Willems. Other small units of the class include plumbing, electrical, ma-chinery operation, surveying, and computer technology. “All these things make the program more well-rounded,” says Willems. Extra Credit To create a project outside of class, each student puts in 25 to 30 hours of additional work. “Our instructors push us to do bigger, better things. Projects are a really good motivational technique,” said former student and contest win-ner Jack Daniel. “I just really love doing these types of things,” says Eschliman. “I’m not into sports at all. I just get super competitive when it comes to weld-ing and always try my hardest.” Shafer adds that, “I like to make quality things and take pride in my work. If I make a bad weld, I’m going to grind it off and weld a new one.” For Barney, the chance to test his creativity and translate sketches into metal creations drives him to put in the extra hours. A well-rounded program would not be complete without community service. Recently, students built some fire pits that they donated, one to the FFA foundation. They also cre-ated a garden spot with a fenced-in area on campus. “It’s a way of using their skills to donate or give back,” says Willems. “They’ve repaired something or built something to help out the commu-nity.” Of course, an instructor is present when students put in extra hours, and that means long days for Wil-lems. He doesn’t like to advertise the fact that he arrives at 6:30 a.m. and often doesn’t leave until 6:00 p.m., “But if students are going the extra mile, I’ll put in the time.” 14 tech directions ◆ May 2017

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