Metals class sparks interest in welding art

Metals class sparks interest in welding art
Posted on 05/06/2019
Editor’s note: Each month of the school year, Tahoma asks its teachers and students to place special emphasis on one of the nine Future Ready Skills. Tahoma Matters features examples of those skills. This month, we’re highlighting the Self-Directed Learner skill.

As Tahoma High School student Kiera Ross registered for classes last year, ceramics was one of her top elective choices. Instead, she was placed in Metals 1 – one of her alternate options – and she wasn’t sure she would like it. But then, teacher Scott Newton began instructing the class in basic fabrication skills such as safety, measuring, cutting, drilling and wire feed welding, and something clicked for Ross.

“It almost seems like arts and crafts, with fire,” the freshman said. Perhaps because she was enjoying herself, Ross learned the required material quickly, and Newton asked her whether she would like to work on some additional projects.

“It is rare for students to move through the curriculum not only as quickly, but as proficiently as Kiera did,” Newton said. “Kiera is a self-starter because she had these ideas after finishing required projects, asked permission, and got going with little help from me.”

Soon, this Self-Directed Learner was visiting the classroom during Power Hour (lunch) most days, because she found a type of art that sparked her interest. Inspired by some pieces she found online, Kiera began creating animals out of old silverware that she and her dad found secondhand. She made piece after piece – from her favorite, an octopus, to a crab, moose, turtle and more. In all, she welded 18 pieces as Christmas presents for family members. One recent morning, Kiera tackled her newest creature, a narwhal.

The biggest challenge is always bringing her vision to fruition, she said. “I’ll have an idea in my head and then I try to figure out how I’m going to put it together.” The process involves taking silverware apart with a hacksaw first, then using the Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) equipment to fuse them back together in different configurations. She also bends some of the pieces while they’re warm, using a vice and welding gloves. “It’s a whole lot of trial and error, but it’s always cool when you finish one,” she said.

Although she took art in middle school, Ross isn’t in any art classes at THS this year. However, remember that ceramics class? It’s back on her requested class list for next year, along with Metals 2.

Other materials covered in the Metals 1 class include an introduction to careers that involve welding, design work using AutoDesk Inventor, and a final project to design a sign, cut it with the plasma cutter and paint it using the powder coat booth. In Metals 2, the curriculum focuses on teaching students the GTAW and Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) processes by giving them plenty of seat time in the weld booths, Newton said.They also work on more advanced fabrication techniques including some machining. Advanced Metals is a year-long class where students focus on applying their skills to a community project; expand their knowledge in CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) machining; and finally, work towards leaving the program with a welding certification. We’ll share more about projects that THS welding students have created in an upcoming issue of Tahoma Matters.

Newton says he has had a handful of students combine metal and art through the years, and noted that welding at the highest levels is an art form in itself.

“Kiera is a very hard worker, and one of the best self-starters I have had in 13 years of teaching shop classes. Not only does she come in to do artwork, she also comes in just to practice welding,” Newton said. “I think Kiera is capable of anything she puts her mind to, and she definitely has a talent in welding to go along with her fantastic work ethic. I can’t wait to see what she does in the future!”
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