MWI hosts welding contest

Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Winners in Saturday's Missouri Welding Institute competition for high school students pose with trophies just after winners were announced. Front row; left to right: Sean Matthews; Wellsville-MIddletown High School; third place; James Giesler; South Tech; second place; Robert Patzius; South Tech; first place. Back row; left to right: Josh Huff; Montgomery County High School; seventh place; Tonesha Vinson; South Tech; fourth place; Brandon Allen; South Tech; ninth place; Nathan Hoelscher; Humansville High School; fifth place; Bryan Ramsey; Macon; 10th place; Andy McDonald; Fleming County (Ky.) High School; sixth place; and Brandon Hawkins; Fleming County (Ky.) High School; eighth place. Lynn A. Wade/Daily Mail

By Lynn A, Wade

Nevada Daily Mail

Robert Patzius walked forward slowly, stunned by the sound of his name. He'd just won first place in the Missouri Welding Institute welding competition for high school students, held Saturday at MWI's Nevada facility. Robert won more than bragging rights and a great big trophy -- he'll get a full scholarship to MWI, a Lincoln welder and other prizes.

"We won!" -- South Tech High School instructor Adam Holt, left, and Missouri Welding Institute competition second-place winner James Giesler congratulate first-place winner Robert Patzius, who won the trophy, a full scholarship to Missouri Welding Institute and a Lincoln welder. Prior to the awards ceremony, Giesler said he'd "settle for second," but afterwards, second didn't seem to him like settling at all.

Smiling and nearly speechless as the news soaked in, he said, "This is great."

Brian Hollands, MWI director, said Robert's project was truly outstanding, "The top 5 were really tough to judge -- not too many degrees of separation, there."

Robert's free ride to the school's a special bonus for him; he was already signed up to attend the school after high school; now he'll do it tuition free.

Sean Matthews, from Wellsville-MIddletown High School, accepts his third-place trophy from Missouri Welding Institute Director Brian Hollands.

About 60 students from as far away as Kentucky took part in Saturday's event. The competitors were given a blueprint and materials, and using MWI's equipment were to perform a specific set of different welds and create a piece according to the blueprint -- all in 45 minutes. In addition to performing a variety of welds, "They had to read the blueprint and put it all together ... there was some tough competition. A lot of the kids did a really good job. You could tell that they practiced what they needed to know for this," and that several had obviously "put in a significant amount of time" in preparation for the event, Hollands said.

Robert certainly did. "Our class has about nine kids, so our teacher can work one on one with us. You can get in a lot of practice. This (Saturday's competition) was very challenging. I practiced really hard for the past month. I was ready as I was going to get," Robert said.

Robert's a student at South County Tech, St. Louis, Mo., and when winners were announced instructor Adam Holt's excitement was obvious; and with good reason. Four South County Tech students placed in the top 10. In addition to Robert, there was Brandon Allen, ninth place; Tonesha Vinson, fourth place; and James Giesler, second place.

James was as stunned as Robert on hearing his name announced as the second-place winner. He'd stood by the first place trophy, jokingly agreeing when asked if he'd be taking it home with him. He'd even said, "I'll settle for second." When that statement became realily, though, James was momentarily speechless -- a condition he admits is rare for him. "We have a great teacher," he said, He won, among other things, a scholarship equal to half of the tuition and he says he'll be glad to use it.

Robert said he'd toured the school and "Liked it. I like the pipe room, and I like it that there can be multiple instructors in the room at the same time." Classmate Tonesha said she liked it as well.

The 26,500 square-foot facility includes a welding shop, pipefitting laboratory, cylinder storage, classroom, library, student breakroom, storm shelter, storage building and offices. Courses include pipe welding and fitting, structural welding and fitting and custom welding and fitting.

Students competing were split into two groups; all competitors had identical instructions. While one group completed the exercise, the other group, along with parents and those who had accompanied students to the competition had the opportunity to roam the campus, visit with MWI representatives or enjoy a hospitality room with beverages and snacks.

"It all went without a hitch," Hollands said. "We tried to have plenty for them to do." Hollands said.

The staff at MWI has been preparing for the competition for about a year, Hollands said, and decided to do so because students and instructors had urged them to. The last time MWI conducted a competition was in 1995, an event attended by 15-20 students.

"We surpassed that by a quantum leap," Hollands said, and this year's competition continues this weekend as well, with a similar competition for vocational-technical school students, who will face an even more difficult challenge than the high school students attempted.

All students competing received a $500 scholarship to MWI "Just for showing up," Hollands said, along with a special-edition shirt from MWI.

The top 10 winners in Saturday's competition and the schools they represent are: Robert Patzius, South Tech, first place; James Giesler, South Tech, second place; Sean Matthews, Wellsville-Middletown, third place; Tonesha Vinson, South Tech, fourth place; Nathan Hoelscher, Humansville High School, fifth place; Andy McDonald, Fleming County (Ky.) High School, sixth place; Josh Huff, Montgomery County High School, seventh place; Brandon Hawkins, Fleming County (Ky.) High School, eighth place; Brandon Allen, South Tech, ninth place; and Bryan Ramsey, Macon, 10th place.

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