CLEVELAND: What could go wrong when you put high-temperature welding guns in the hands of children and invite them to work with molten metal?
As it turns out, very little — as long as the children are Boy Scouts and supervised by experts from Lincoln Electric and Ohio Technical College.
Dozens of Boy Scouts descended Thursday on the campus of Ohio Technical College to earn merit badges for welding. It was one of four sessions that brought nearly 150 Scouts to the college to learn about welding and other technical skills. The program was sponsored jointly by Ohio Technical College and Lincoln Electric.
Each of the Scouts received a lesson in welding from volunteers from the college and Lincoln Electric using three pieces of pre-cut metal supplied by Lincoln that could be welded together to create a statue of an eagle.
C.J. Howard, 13, of North Ridgeville, went beyond the assignment and also welded together a cube and a camping chair, even though the eagle would have been enough to earn his 22nd merit badge.
“Our troop goes camping a lot so I figured why not have a chair?” he said.
Had he ever considered welding before? “I’ve thought about it before, but I never could see myself doing it, because I didn’t know what it took to do it. I didn’t realize how easy it actually was until today,” he said.
Connor Hensley, 12, also of North Ridgeville, completed his eagle and also managed to weld his initials on a block, as well as practice making a lap joint, a butt joint and a T-joint.
“I’d like to do more welding,” he said. “I expected it to be harder, but it was really kind of easy. “
Mike Wyland, Ohio Technical College’s director of welding, said the program was an opportunity to expose the Scouts to the trade.
“It will show the Scouts what a great career welding is,” he said. “I’m also excited to show how important team work is in anything they do in life. It’s a great way to show our younger generation about the future opportunities they have in front of them.”
Medina’s Charissa Adams, a student at the college and one of the volunteers, said she was working for an auto manufacturing plant facing layoffs, so she came to the school to improve her skills and credentials.
She was impressed at what quick learners the Scouts were.
“It was great to be there and help [them],” she said.
The Boy Scouts created the welding merit badge in 2012 in collaboration with the American Welding Society.
To earn the badge, Scouts must learn welding safety requirements, demonstrate first-aid procedures that may be needed in the welding environment, demonstrate proficiency in skills related to the welding of joints and learn about careers in various industries that employ welding skills.
“The support of Ohio Technical College and Lincoln Electric for this event has been overwhelming,” said Steven Mazur, Boy Scouts of America troop leader. “The Boy Scouts earn many merit badges that will change their lives forever and this is one of them. It’s the hottest new merit badge in years.”
Beyond being an unusual experience for Scouts to experience, Mazur thinks the program has the greater value of encouraging some kids to consider physical trades such as welding.
“Especially with the huge imbalance we have right now with vocational and academic training,” he said. “There are many more people now with college degrees, but things like welding have to be done. You can’t have a productive society if everything’s not in balance.’
Ohio Technical College is a sprawling campus extending several blocks across East 51 Street and a few blocks west. While the outside is looks like a series of factory buildings, the interior is a cross between a massive auto repair shop and Disneyland for motorheads. There are colorful neon signs everywhere and various displays of tools and memorabilia that belong more in the category of entertainment than pure technical training.
The school teaches automotive mechanics, including a specialized BMW training program, as well as welding and various other technical skills associated with metal and glass work.
Lincoln Electric is a Cleveland company focused on the design, development and manufacture of arc welding products, robotic arc welding systems, plasma and oxyfuel cutting equipment.
Lincoln has 45 manufacturing locations, including operations and joint ventures in 19 countries and a worldwide network of distributors and sales offices covering more than 160 countries.
Daryl Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.