Scott Wallerman (right) talks with a Texas FFA Area IV competitor during the agricultural and engineering career development contest at TSTC’s Abilene campus. Wallerman, who works for Broadwind Heavy Fabrications, was the certified welding inspector for the event.

(ABILENE, Texas) – High school welders from North and West Texas recently competed at Texas State Technical College’s Abilene campus for the right to attend the Texas FFA Association’s agricultural and engineering career development championships.

TSTC hosted the Texas FFA Area IV event, with the top three teams advancing to the state competition later this year in Huntsville.

“We are proud to partner with the Texas FFA in hosting this event,” said Greg Nicholas, a TSTC Welding Technology instructor in Abilene. “This gives the contestants a chance to see our facility, use the equipment our students use, talk to our instructors, and have their work judged by one of our industry partners who is a certified welding inspector.”

The contestants competed in four events to earn points toward the team title. The events included welding a T-joint, cutting out a washer with a welding torch, transferring a blueprint onto a metal plate, and taking a 100-question written test.

“Some of the skills were more challenging than others,” said Emmanuel Huerta, a senior at City View Junior/Senior High School in Wichita Falls. “I knew when I competed that I wanted to be able to learn something new.”

Caleb Gamblin, a teacher at Bangs High School, said teachers and students are showing more interest in competing at the area level.

“I think it is going to continue to grow every year,” he said. “With the help of TSTC, this will become a big event for our students.”

That has been the goal for TSTC, according to Justin Price, associate provost of the Abilene campus.

“We are excited to be the hub for welding events in West Texas,” he said. “TSTC prides itself on working with the communities around us to showcase our facilities and future students. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Texas FFA.”

A.J. Lewis, a teacher at Burkburnett High School, brought his students early so they could see the facility.

“They were starstruck,” he said.  “I told them before we arrived that TSTC was the star of the welding education world. Some of them are already talking about coming here for a tour and to talk to the instructors.”

The events held in the lab were timed, and students were given the welding procedure specification (WPS) sheet prior to making their way into the welding booth.

“Having only the WPS gives the students a real-world scenario,” said Garrett Briney, a teacher at Aledo High School. “This is a very practical contest for them. This is something they can take with them into the workforce.”

Tyler Long, a teacher at Ballinger High School, agreed.

“This is just like a worksite. You will receive the paperwork and get to work,” he said. “No matter what job you have, you will be working from some kind of specification.”

Aledo High School won the team title, followed by Boyd High School and Brock High School. Other FFA chapters represented at the Area IV contest were from Abilene, Ballinger, Bangs, Bridgeport, Burkburnett, City View, Comanche, Decatur, Jim Ned, Newcastle and Wyile.

Aledo’s Logan Dalton finished with the top individual score. He was followed by Brycen Behrens, of Aledo; Ayden Fishback, of Comanche; Brayden Fugate, of Burkburnett; and Zaine Barnard, of Decatur.

“This competition was challenging and fun,” Dalton said of his win. “It was great to use the equipment here because we do not have any of this at our school.”

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