The Brownwood campus of Texas State Technical College West Texas hosted a high school welding competition for area students on Friday.The competition featured two categories: on-site skills and projects. The skills contest allowed students to showcase their talents, and the projects category judged a project that was completed prior to the competition and brought for judging.Approximately 50 students from ten high schools attended the competition and learned more about TSTC and welding. High schools students from Abilene Woodson, Bangs, Cherokee, Coleman, Eastland, Gustine, Holliday, Mullin, Northside, and Priddy attended. Projects entered included a trailer with a fixed barbeque pit, other trailers and a livestock pen.In the projects category, TSTC Welding instructor Jay Burkes stated that the judging was very difficult and that the top two projects were separated only by one point. Each of the top awarded projects won a welding helmet. The first place project team also won a torch kit.Bangs won 1st place with a green flatbed trailer.Eastland took second place with a gold flat bed trailer.Sergio Rios of Gustine won the Individual project with a hay feeder he constructed.In the skills competition, Holliday students swept the results. Their ag teacher, Paul Simmons, stated that the students really enjoyed the competitions.“Even if we hadn’t won anything, it was a success, because we figured out a few things (how to better complete certain welding techniques),” said Simmons.Austin Allman won first place, receiving a $750 scholarship to attend TSTC along with a welding helmet, gloves and a protective welding suit.Jacob Harrell took second place earning a $500 scholarship.Justin Marsh earned third place.Eastland students won the top prize in the portfolio competition. This competition focused on the documentation of the process, and planning materials explaining how the project was built and the costs involved. Judges stated that the computer aided drawing of plans and hand drawings included in Eastland’s portfolio were very impressive.Burks stated that the competition is not only a recruiting tool, but it is also a way to see the quality of welders coming out of Texas high schools.“The contest shows if there are good high school students that are good welders. Some high school students enroll in welding classes to get out of other classes. We want students at TSTC that want to make this a career, the ones that don’t play around,” said Burkes.Burkes explained that TSTC has approximately 50 students complete their welding training each year, which is a two semester course.TSTC Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management Brian Kight explained that many people do not realize that with just one or two semesters of education, some students are able to be placed into a career and become part of the much needed workforce, earning a higher pay and contributing to the economy of the cities in which they live and work. The welding program is one such opportunity, as welders are currently in high demand, especially in the oil field.According to Kight, through hosting the welding competition, TSTC is able to “build an experience to teach students about the possibilities of technical education.” Kight stated that TSTC is very focused on helping their students with career placement.A state-of-the-art mobile welding lab was also on display which is a self-contained lab with 8 welding stalls and a classroom. The public was allowed to walk through and even try their hand at welding. The mobile lab was designed and fabricated to allow TSTC West Texas to take welding instruction to remote locations to serve both industry and educational institutions. It is this flexibility that allows the school to customize training to fit the customer’s needs. As the need for qualified welders in the Big Country continues to grow, this invaluable tool will help fill those positions with trained workers.The competition was sponsored by Loadcraft and Airgas who donated welding equipment such as welding helmets and gloves and a torch kit as prizes.Pictured at top are students working to smooth welds just completed in the individual skills competition, behind them are welding booths occupied other students welding.More photos of the event are below.Welding in the skills competition.Putting the finishing touches on a weld.1st Place Individual Project: Sergio Rios, Gustine High School - Hay feeder.1st Place Project: Bangs High School - Flatbed trailer.2nd Place Project: Eastland High School - Flatbed trailerNorthside High School - BBQ Pit TrailerAwards and prizes presented at Friday's competition. All trophies presented were crafted at TSTC Brownwood.