A team of students from the Delaware Area Career Center are headed to a national competition after taking first place in the SkillsUSA Ohio Welding Fabrication Competition last month.
Comprised of Big Walnut seniors in the DACC’s welding program, the team — Blaize Foster, Cole Duff and Luke Chiles — will compete in the SkillsUSA national competition next month after placing first in both the regional and state competitions. The DACC reported this is the first time a team from the school has taken first place in the welding fabrication category.
The state competition was held virtually, and students competed from the DACC welding lab via Zoom, along with 23 other teams. The national competition will also be held virtually.
“They sent us a pallet with pre-cut metal and a set of blueprints, all wrapped in plastic so we couldn’t see what was inside until the competition started,” Duff said. “We had three hours from start to finish.”
Foster said once the competition started, the students unwrapped the materials and evaluated what they had to make.
“We knew right away from the blueprints that we would be making a fire pit,” Foster said. “Planning out what we would do and getting the materials ready were the most important parts. With a project like this, it’s 90% setup and 10% welding.”
Chiles said the team’s first step set them apart from other teams.
“We started off by cleaning every piece of metal so the final product would be high quality,” he said. “Not every team took the time to do that. It’s important that you have clean materials to put together.”
Foster said that as the competition came to a close, they reviewed their work several times.
“In the last 15 minutes, we reviewed the blueprints three additional times just to make sure we got everything right,” Foster said. “We did find a measurement that was off, and we were able to fix it.”
The team of students competed in the competition last year and placed second at regionals and would have moved onto the state competition, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. Duff said the team spent the past year preparing for the regional and state competitions.
“Last year, we didn’t have much experience reading blueprints, so we took time this year to do research and ask (welding instructor Bradley) DeMent for extra help with blueprint-reading before the competition because we knew how important it would be,” Duff said.
Winning the state competition is an accomplishment the trio won’t soon forget.
“Every time someone brings it up, I can’t stop smiling,” Duff said.
Chiles added that it is “really cool” to be representing the entire state of Ohio at the national competition.
DeMent said he is proud of the students, adding the team benefits from the fact the students are not only classmates, but good friends as well.
“Luke, Cole and Blaize are all Big Walnut seniors, so they know each other well,” DeMent said. “I believe having that bond before the career center and then all of them learning the welding trade together in this program is what lead to their success. All three have been hard workers in this program, which led them to continually push each other to become more skilled in the craft. Their work ethic, knowledge, and focus on safety really lead them to the championship.”
The students said part of their preparation for the national competition is reading and studying more blueprints.
“The blueprints are a series of numbers and signs that tell everything about what the weld should look like,” Chiles said. “We need to get more in-depth with concave and convex welds.”
After graduation, Chiles plans to enroll in the Vaughn Industries Plumber & Pipefitter four-year program; Duff plans to join his family’s business with a focus on excavation; and Foster plans to start his own business.
Additionally, Shawn Dunn, a Big Walnut junior in the Auto Collision program at the DACC, took third place in the Skills USA State Collision Damage Appraisal Competition; and a team of Christian Heckert, an Olentangy Orange junior, and Spencer Applegate, a junior from Olentangy High School, took second place in the SkillsUSA Robotics Urban Search and Rescue State Competition.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.