Six Franklin County Career and Technical Center welding seniors will compete against students across Kentucky in the annual Capital City Welding Classic Friday.
“We’ve been hosting this competition for 14 years,” said welding instructor Randy Shewmaker. “As of right now, it’s the biggest welding competition in the state of Kentucky.”
The local students will face around 60 teams of three students from about 20 other Kentucky schools.
Each participating school sends at least one team of three students. The Franklin County Career and Technical Center has two teams competing this year because there are a lot more seniors in the program, Shewmaker said.
Team one consists of Trinity Flora, 17, who attendsFranklin County High School, and Cameron Loman, 18, and William Thornton, 19, both of whom attend Western Hills High School. The second team is made up of Eric Boyd, 18, Isaac Fluhanty, 18, and Trevor Dempsey, 17, all of whom attend FCHS.
To be chosen to compete in the Capital City Welding Classic, local welding students compete against one another. Usually, the top three students are chosen to represent Franklin County Schools in the competition, Shewmaker said.
“It’s a badge of honor to make one of my teams,” he said. “You’re saying you’re the best of the best of this program. If you can be in the top three of this program, that’s saying something because we’ve got a lot of good welders here.”
On the line Friday are bragging rights for the school whose team lands at the top and, for individual students, scholarships to Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville, Florida — the top welding college in America, Shewmaker said. The top competitor will receive a full-ride scholarship to Tulsa Welding School worth about $20,000. The second-place student is awarded a half-ride scholarship worth $10,000, and third place wins a quarter-ride scholarship worth $5,000.
Each student receives a $500 scholarship to Tulsa Welding School just for competing. The competition is open to students from all locally controlled or state-run schools, Shewmaker said.
During the Capital City Welding Classic the students will be challenged with professional-level work. The work will be judged by certified welding inspectors, he said.
“It’s pretty intense,” Shewmaker said. “This is not an entry-level competition. This is really advanced. I would say most adults who have been in the welding field for quite some time will struggle on this one. It’s really tough.”
Shewmaker said the students competing will be given blueprints that “look like Chinese roadmaps,” and will build what the design asks. Students are then judged on how well they read the blueprints, their cuts and how well they execute welding techniques. Work is judged on 17 different items, he said.
“It’s very exciting,” Flora said. “I’ve been working four years for this, to get to a competition to win a scholarship to go to college. This is what I’ve worked four years for, so it’s good it’s paid off.”
John Sanders, Career and Technical Center principal, said the welding classic offers good experience and an amazing award.
“I compare some of the welding competitions, specifically this one, to going to the (basketball) Sweet 16,” he said. “A kid winning this is a huge deal. You’re talking about a free scholarship.”
The students competing take a lot of pride in their work, he said.
Welding is a skill encompassing more than just working with your hands to melt metal together. It takes an understanding of blueprints and a deep understanding of mathematics, Shewmaker said.
“Gone are the days of welders being seen as cavemen working with their hands,” he said.
Shewmaker has seen the welding program grow significantly over the years since he began teaching at the career center. When he started teaching the program 15 years ago, there were around 38 students in the program. In the last couple of years, he has had 120-150 students.