Mike Rust has been burning metal in a tin building behind Flagstaff High School for the past 16 years, and during that time, he has taught almost 2,000 students how to cut, bend, form, fabricate and weld metal.
Of the 100-plus students Rust has in his welding classes each year, a little over 10% go on to a career using the skills that they learned under his tutelage.
In late February, 10 schools from across northern Arizona came to Rust’s welding program at Flagstaff High School for the Skills USA Region 4 Conference to demonstrate their skills in a competitive environment with the hopes of qualifying for the state competition held April 27-28 at the Phoenix pipe fitters union shop in Phoenix.
Students participating in the conference took two written tests on the day as well as an interview before they lit torches and got to welding metal.
“The tests cover their all-around skill and knowledge, and then the interview takes the form of a mock employment interview,” Rust said.
During the course of the day, students worked inside the welding shop and out in the parking lot behind the building. Inside, individual students displayed their mig, stick, TIG and flux core welding skills as well as oxy-fuel cutting skills. Outside teams of three students worked cooperatively in fabrication teams to fabricate steel saw horses. This involved using an oxy-acetylene torch to cut sheet steel into the strips needed to stick weld into the sawhorses.
At the end of the day when all of the scores were tabulated, Flagstaff’s Jacob Sansone took first place in the individual welding contest and Tim Dana, Leroy Horney and Kody Kelly took first place in the team fabrication contest.
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