(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – More than 200 students representing 40 high schools competed in welding competitions at three Texas State Technical College campuses earlier this month.
The popularity of the competitions has grown since they began in 2020. The top seniors at the competitions, which have been held at TSTC campuses in Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater, each received a scholarship to cover tuition for the first semester in Welding Technology at TSTC.
Ethan Brown, a student recruitment representative at the Breckenridge campus, said it was good to see interest increasing among local high schools.
“It was nice to get more schools and students involved in our competitions,” he said. “This year we had freshmen and sophomores, including females, competing. Seeing the number of students who wanted to compete forced us to move the competition to two days in Breckenridge.”
Stephen Hope, a Welding Technology instructor in Breckenridge, knows why the event has become so popular.
“The students who do compete go back and tell others about the event and the hospitality,” he said. “The word that gets out from the students is the reason why we are having this over two days this year.”
Sweetwater’s campus welcomed 117 students for the competition, while Brownwood hosted 93 students. The Breckenridge campus had 81 students enter the event. Many of the students competed at more than one campus because they featured different projects.
Breckenridge competitors had to weld a rocket stove, while in Brownwood students were required to weld a boot cleaner. Sweetwater competitors had to weld a desktop welding-hood stand.
“We wanted to give the students a project that they would be able to take home and use,” said Daniel Aguirre, a TSTC Welding Technology instructor in Brownwood.
Casey Carnes, a TSTC alumnus, judged the Brownwood competition. He was proud to see TSTC hosting a welding event for high school students.
“I am amazed at how many kids are involved,” he said. “It’s great to see what TSTC is doing with this contest and preparing students for the real world. It is also good to see the communities and schools coming to TSTC.”
The competitors had different reasons for competing.
Za’Rance Billington, a senior at Haskell High School and a member of the Haskell Volunteer Fire Department, was out until 3 a.m. the morning of the competition fighting a house fire in Stamford despite his father’s objections.
“I told my dad I needed to go to the fire and help. He told me I would miss school,” he said.
But Billington did not miss school or the competition.
“I decided that this competition would be good for me because I have only done one other competition,” he said.
Louis Ramon, a senior at Mineral Wells High School, said the event offered a different welding opportunity.
“I had to work really hard to try and get my metal right and lined up,” he said. “This was a good experience for me.”
Rudy Leal, an agricultural science teacher at Throckmorton Collegiate Independent School District, had three students in the Breckenridge contest.
“I wanted them to come here and get exposed to the real world,” he said. “I told them that this could become their job one day.”
TSTC offers Welding Technology at each of its 10 campuses located throughout Texas. Welding Technology is one of nine programs at TSTC that have money-back guarantees. The college’s commitment to participating students is simple: If they do not have a job in their field within six months of graduation, they will receive a full refund of their tuition. For more information on the Money-Back Guarantee program, visit https://www.tstc.edu/admissions/tuition/.
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.