Welding camp sparks interest

Carol Roehm|Commercial-NewsWelding instructor R.J. Rowland shows the fire pit each teen will make to take home during the second week of welding camp at Danville Area Community College.

DANVILLE – Sparks were flying as Grayson Goble welded a T-joint Tuesday morning in Danville Area Community College’s state-of-the-art welding lab.

The 14-year-old from Westville had never welded before, but his welding skills already were looking impressive during only the second day of welding tech camp.

DACC welding instructor R.J. Rowland hatched the idea for a welding camp for 13- to 18-year-olds. He said he specifically targeted that age group because they have aged-out of DACC’s other summer programming, such as College for Kids.

Most of all, though, Rowland said the camp is “a recruiting tool” to spur interest in the skilled trades and in his welding College Express class for local high school juniors and seniors.

“My hope is that maybe someday they will want to be a professional welder,” he said of the teens. “I get calls all the time from the pipefitters union in Terre Haute needing welders. Watchfire needs MIG aluminum welders.”

Much to Rowland’s surprise, 14 teens – primarily 13- and 14-year-olds – signed up for the inaugural camp.

“It’s a two-week camp so we’re not going to get too in-depth, but they’ll learn a lot,” he said.

During the first week, teens will learn how to stick weld and make a pair of large steel dice.

The sides of the dice will be cut out using a new CNC plasma table -- which can be programmed to cut customized pieces of metal -- that was purchased with a grant from the Vermilion Health Foundation.

In the second week, the teens will learn about MIG welding and make a fire pit to take home.

“I wanted them to make something useful,” Rowland said. “They’re going to puff up like a banty rooster when they make a fire pit that they can take home to their family.”

The design of the fire pit is similar to one that sells for $550 on an online handiwork website, he said.

For many of the teens, welding is a completely new experience for them.

“None of them have seen anything like this in their whole life,” Rowland said.

The first day of camp was spent reinforcing safety rules and also learning about grinding and how to prepare their material to weld.

In addition to Rowland, there are three other adult welders to oversee the teens.

“We have a good ratio of instructors to kids,” he said.

Although no one in his family welds, Grayson said he willingly signed up for the camp.

“I wanted to see if I liked it and wanted to do it as a professional,” he said.

The teen said the instructors were helpful, and he felt like he was gaining more confidence with his welding skills.

“They really help you understand what you’re doing,” Grayson said. “I’ve been practicing T joints today, and I’m getting a lot better at it.”

Brookelynn Albright, 13, was one of a few girls attending the welding camp. She said her grandfather knows how to weld, but it was her grandmother who signed her up for the camp.

“I was scared at first, but I’m getting used to it,” she admitted. “Now I’m getting the hang of it, and I like it.”

Rowland said he was thrilled to see girls trying their hand at welding at the camp.

“It’s good to get girls exposed to it and let them decide if they want to continue with it,” he said.