60+ Area high school welders compete in Ridgewater 2022 Remote SkillsFest
May 20, 2022
WILLMAR and HUTCHINSON, MN – For the second consecutive year, regional high schools tested their technical skills during a distant version of the annual Ridgewater College SkillsFest.
SkillsFest is an annual competition for students to test their technical skills in everything from welding to photography. The event is usually hosted in February and attracts around 300 students, but the pandemic halted large group events for the second consecutive year.
In 2021, Ridgewater Welding instructors took their technical challenges on the road to seven interested high schools. It was such a success, they repeated it in 2022. The instructors visited area schools to give demonstrations and instructions, and also to distribute tacked together weldments for the competition. They also shared details about a new category involving building metal spears.
Each school then selected up to three competitors in each category. Students then had two weeks to perform a print reading test and complete the designated weldment. Ridgewater faculty then collected the projects for judging by Ridgewater Welding students.
“This year’s SkillsFest Distant Version 2 turned out to be an even better event than 2021 and a great way to involve both high school and college welders,” said Cody Sarsland, Ridgewater Welding instructor. “High schoolers accepted the technical skill challenges and college welding students judged the projects.”
More than 60 students participated this year, twice as many as 2021. Twelve students earned award recognition while first-place winners also earned $1,000 Ridgewater College Foundation scholarships.
Participating schools included Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (ACGC), Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (BBE), Eden Valley-Watkins (EVW), Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (KMS), New London-Spicer (NLS), Sauk Centre, and Willmar.
2022 Top Welding Honors:
Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW, mig/wire): 1st – David Thaden, Willmar; 2nd – Brady Schwinghammer, BBE; 3rd – Hayden Larson, NL-S
Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW, Tig): 1. Hunter Melby, NL-S; 2. Sam Gabrielson, NL-S; 3. Ryan Kulman, Wilmar
Stick Metal Arc Welding (SMAW): 1. Aiden Peterson, Willmar; 2. Tyler Olsen, NL-S; 3. Alec Larson, NL-S
Spear Building: 1. Myles Macik, NL-S; 2. Connor Danielson, ACGC; 3. Colby Renne, ACGC
“I would like to thank the high school instructors for their role in getting students interested in working with their hands,” Sarsland said. “With all the electronic and social media distractions, it’s harder to keep students focused on a goal.”
He was also impressed with his college Welding students who cut and assembled 70 identical weldments in just four days for the competition. “They had to coordinate what materials to use, schedule when materials would be cut/made on each different piece of equipment in the shop, and make each part identical,” Sarsland said. “I was impressed with their drive to accomplish the goal…. It’s a great experience for both the high school students and Ridgewater Welding students.”
The West Central Chapter of the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association sponsored the new spear-building competition. President Loren Hjelle, a retired Ridgewater Welding instructor of 31 years, said it was great to pilot this new spear activity. “If a kid makes a spear, maybe he’ll want to use it…. We’ll definitely offer this category again.” He was impressed with winner Myles Macik’s spear and proud to be able to share more than $700 in prizes with participants, including a portable fish house, heater, and decoys.
Photos of division winners of honors and scholarships
David Thader, Willmar, Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW, MIG/wire)
Hunter Melby, New London-Spicer, Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW, Tig)
Aiden Peterson, Willmar, Stick Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
Myles Macik of New London-Spicer won the new Spear Building category. President Loren Hjelle of the West Central Chapter of the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association presented Macik with the portable fish house prize for his efforts and creativity.