Welding in the Deep End
Welding students at Kankakee Valley High School in Wheatfield, Indiana, are trading in their welding hoods for scuba masks. David Hass, welding instructor and certified scuba diver, covers a chapter on underwater welding each year in his welding courses. Students learn the basics of welding and cutting underwater before hitting the school's swimming pool to practice the fundamentals of scuba diving.
“The guys dive down in the deep end to assemble an 8-inch pipe flange, take it apart and come back up. Whoever does everything the fastest earns bragging rights,” Hass says.
A friend of Hass’ who does welding work in Chicago also brings in his truck and rig each year to set up a presentation where he actually demonstrates welding underwater.
“It is a good way to get the guys out of the spring break slump and keep them excited about the class,” says Hass.
Hass has around 50 students in grades 10 through 12 each year between his two introductory classes and one secondary class. Students can earn dual credit of up to 12 credit hours through Ivy Tech Community College in the second-year class. The class covers all the state standards needed to ready students to enter the workplace.
With half of his students going straight into apprenticeships or welding careers out of school, Hass strives to give his students as much experience as possible. He is currently working to become CWI certified so more of his advanced students will have the opportunity to be certified before they graduate from high school.
Students have not been limited to the walls of Kankakee Valley High and have had the opportunity to tackle some professional projects and field work. Hass believes that start-to-finish builds and maintenance are important to learn for future work in the industry.
Hass equips his welding shop with plenty of Miller machines, including Millermatic® 250s, a Regency 250, Shopmaster™ 300s and Syncrowave® 250s, to offer a variety of machines that he believes students will more than likely run into in the industry. The students have used the equipment to work on various projects, such as maintenance jobs around steel mills and building a spiral staircase for a boathouse on a local lake.
“I want them to think of more than just welding two pieces of metal together, but to find what actually caused a problem and find a way to fix it,” he says.
Last year, students made decorative metal tree grates for a customer in Chicago. The class worked the project start to finish, from the design work to estimates to the fabrication and installation. The two grates can now be seen on a sidewalk north of Chicago’s famous Michigan Avenue.
The most important quality that Hass tries to convey to his students is problem solving. He tells his students, “You can train a monkey to weld, but you can’t teach him how to set up a machine or troubleshoot.”
He also says it is important to master basic skills like reading and understanding a tape measure, prints and electrical information. Hass tries to sneak calculation work into his class to keep his students sharp without making it seem like a math class.
“I can’t use scary words like ‘Pythagorean theorem,’ or they will tune me out. But sometimes they come up and say that what they learned in math today was just a bigger word for what I taught them a couple weeks back,” Hass says with a chuckle.
Hass does his best to offer his students real-world experience in the classroom to better prepare them for a welding career. He is excited to see his students move into schooling and careers related to welding. Two of his past students who studied the chapter on underwater welding are now moving to San Diego to attend a diving school and work with offshore rigs.
“You know, I always tell the guys, ‘Are you going to live and die in our little town here in Indiana or are you going to go out and try something different?’”