As soon as Kirkwood Instructor Jim Otto announced lunch was over, seven students quickly snapped their helmets down over their eyes and got to work. Otto was the instructor for the Welding Metal Creations day camp held at Kirkwood March 19-21, which let students in grades fifth through eighth learn the basics of welding.
“I like to see them get excited about what comes out,” he said. “They come up with the darnedest things you ever saw.”
Otto said the camp has been continuing for a couple of years and every year he is more encouraged to see how many students come out. He said spring break is the perfect time to host the camp because it provides a reason for students to get out of the house and try something new.
“When you can give them a bucket of this stuff,” he said referencing a container of scrap metal, “they can come up with anything they want to come up with.”
He said the materials are all scrap pieces donated from local enterprises such as Bazooka Farmstar. The students are given free rein to create anything they can imagine, and Otto is there to ensure safety and help whenever they need it.
Otto said fifth-through eighth-grade is the perfect time to get students interested in the trades because there is such a dire need for more people to enter into it in the workforce. His hope is by offering the camp to the younger students they will be motivated and spark an interest in the craft.
“It’s a good time to do it over spring break when all the kids are off because it gives them something to do and gets them going,” he said. “We’re trying to get them interested in something different. There’s a lot of potential there that’s not been tapped.”
Gabe Tinnes, a seventh-grader at Washington Middle School, has never welded before but decided to join the camp anyway in the spirit of trying something new.
“My dad really enjoys welding so I thought I might as well try it,” he said.
Mid-Prairie Middle School sixth-grader Callie Huber has welded before with her dad but wanted to join the camp to get more experience. Her favorite thing she made in her three days in the class was a cat out of horseshoes and other assorted scrap metals.
Brock Fisher, a fifth-grader at Mid-Prairie Middle School, was the youngest of the group but did not let that stop him. He said his interest in welding stems from his wanting to have a way to unleash his creativity.
“I’ve seen my dad do it a lot, so I just wanted to go for it,” he said. “(I like) the freedom of building whatever I want.”
Fisher said his favorite thing he has created over the three days in camp was a flower for his mom.