It’s not exactly an Olympic competition, but winning takes a lot of training and specialized skill, and three Central New Mexico Community College students took home gold in the Welding Fabrication Team category at the SkillsUSA Championships in Atlanta, Georgia, in June, according to a news release from CNM.
The event is the largest competition in the country of career technical education students, with more than 6,500 college students competing in 108 trades categories.
The CNM students — Zane Horton, Christopher Rodriguez and Walter Armijo — competed for six hours, facing off against trade students from other states who won gold in qualifying competitions in their respective states. During the competition, the students were told what to fabricate from scratch using raw materials, their tools and welding skills. Welding experts who work in the industry served as judges and assessed the students on a variety of techniques and skills.
The project they fabricated was a mobile/modular post to hold a welding curtain, which is used to retain the sparks from a welding torch.
Members of the winning CNM team said they entered the competition with confidence.
“It was like a dream, it was totally surreal,” Horton commented in the news release. “It took my breath away. But to be honest, I also knew we had a good chance because of all the work we had put in.”
Rodriguez echoed that sentiment: “When you prepare for so long, you know you’re going to execute. We were really excited to win, but to be honest it wasn’t a surprise.”
The team’s welding instructor, Trenton Moore, said his students were ready to compete at the national level, after “eating, sleeping and breathing welding for a long time now.”
Other CNM students also did well in the competition: Armando Urias, took home a bronze medal in the Welding Individual division; Alyssa Copeland finished fifth in the Welding Sculpture event; and CNM dual credit student Clay Rexroad placed 13th in the high school welding category.
Since 2015, CNM’s welding program has produced more than 10 national SkillsUSA medalists, the release said.
SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, instructors and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.