Monique A. LeBleu/Courier - Structural Engineering students TIG weld a project in the welding lab in the IT Building on Thursday, April 14, 2016.
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Recently, PCC welding students competed for state at the SkillsUSA competition and won gold in the welding sculpture category while also winning a bronze medal in the welding fabrication team category and silver in SMAW (shield metal arc weld). Back in January, PCC Welding students competed at the regional SkillsUSA competition where they ended up walking away with a gold medal as well.

Photo courtesy of PCC - Misty Henry and her students with some of their awards from SkillsUSA
Photo courtesy of PCC – Misty Henry and her students with some of their awards from SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA is an organization that helps prepare students for careers in skilled, technical, and service occupations “and is a partnership of students, teachers and industry representatives working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce,” states the SkillsUSA website.

The students began practicing since October of last year for the competition and have been bettering their skills every day since.

They all went in to the competition with no expectations but to give it their best shot, especially for it being their first time competing for state. Although they have competed before, that didn’t stop them from getting nervous for the competition.

“I was completely nervous but I think we pulled it off really well, we weren’t really expecting to medal in anything,” said Loni Ashby, who received bronze in the fabrication team. “Pretty much everyone medaled.”

With all their exceptional talent it was no surprise that the group again ended up leaving with a gold medal and placing in many other categories.

Michael Chong, a welding major, won gold in the welding sculpture category. The sculpture took about 3 months to make, with preparing with notes and pictures throughout the process to have it approved by the professor. His sculpture was based on the idea of safety.

“I have a lot of friends in the class and safety is the biggest thing that should be focused on cause all the machinery’s can hurt someone,” said Chong. “So I just wanted to create a piece that talks about safety.”

The event consisted of over 2,000 people of all different trades and different types of on the spot competitions. The majority of the competitions consisted of long hours and hard work.

All the competitions were timed. Two of the longest ones were the fabrication competition, which was a six-hour competition that had only a 20-minute break for lunch and the combo competition that was at least seven hours. All the other competitions were about an hour and a half long.

Overall, the students were proud of themselves and the fact that all of them were able to place and get a medal. Most importantly, they enjoyed the whole experience all together and were proud to represent PCC. “As far as it goes, I think it was a really interesting experience,” said Robert Eldridge, welding student, who placed in bronze in the fabrication team. “It was really fun to represent PCC for the first time.”

Misty Henry, welding professor, was completely humbled and proud of her students.

“The kids did amazing,” said Henry. “It was a little emotional and overwhelming for me in a good way, we look forward to doing it next year.”

With them taking this experience and competing for the first time, learning what they did and knowing what to improve on for the next time around, they are confident for next year’s competition.

“We did good this year, our first year,” said Henry. “But I think next year we’re just going to kill it.”

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