Sparks flew and grinders droned in the shop area last Thursday as six Madras High School students attempted to pass the test to earn certification through the American Welding Society.
Welding instructor Ben Anderson said there were two freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors ready to test their skills.
"This is unusual, the first time it's been done at MHS," Anderson said, adding, "You don't see many freshmen in high school who are certified welders." Anderson noted he was 24 when he got his certification.
Students in his welding classes decided whether they wanted to attempt the test, and also had to pay the $150 fee. Those signing up included Juan Huerta, Rope Reese, Kody Zemke, William Lemus, Kobe Serrano and Bryan Patt.
A few of them shared comments, as they waited for the welding tester to arrive.
Freshman Juan Huerta, 15, said, "I've been welding for two semesters and wanted to give it a try. It's something I've thought about since the eighth grade. I'm interested in it as a profession."
Kody Zemke, also a freshman, admitted, "I'm a little nervous, but confident in my skills. I could see myself going into the trades and doing this as a job – maybe in the oil fields."
MHS junior William Lemus said he has been welding for three years, with the first two spent in FFA classes. This is the first year MHS has had full-time instructors for construction and metals in seven years.
"The new teachers really helped us out a lot with hands-on teaching over the past year," Lemus said, noting projects he'd worked on included a tackle sled for the football team, metal bar stools for a local business, and welding feeder panels at home, where he raises goats. "I'm pretty dead set that I want to be a welder," he said.
The test involved taking two 3/8th-inch thick metal plates with a backing strip, and welding it together in a vertical position. The inspector will cut and bend the samples to see if they hold. "They've been practicing. It's fairly difficult for a high school kid," Anderson said.
Tester, Kevin Bays, from Carson Testing Inc., in Bend, said the youngest person he's ever tested was 18, so with 15-year-olds, the MHS group would be a first.
The students spent 2 1/2 hours behind plastic safety curtains welding and grinding off bumps, while trying to complete their test projects. Bays checked their work periodically and talked with them about it.
"I like doing this type of testing; these kids were ready and motivated," Bays said of the students.
Anderson said they won't know for a week if they passed the test, but if they do, the students will be certified as a sumo welder (using MIG wire welder), stick welder (using arc welder), certified to weld in flat, horizontal or vertical positions, and able to do a 3/4-inch groove weld and unlimited thickness on a fillet weld.