Cromwell-Wright High School students who participated in Lake Superior College's welding competition credit their success to their school's industrial technology program that provides them the means to practice the trade and the extra skills they gain when helping other students in the classroom.

Of the four Cromwell-Wright students participated in the annual welding competition in Duluth on Friday, May 3, each placed in the top four of the individual rankings, with more than 20 students competing. The team won first place out of seven schools.

Senior David Aho, who's no rookie to welding, took first place. When Aho was in elementary school, his older cousin, who went to school for welding, started teaching him the craft. Now, he does much of the welding at home, which mostly includes equipment repairs for his family's logging company. Still, Aho said he learned most of what he knows about welding at school.

"There were a lot of good welders in previous classes, too," Aho said. "You kind of just pick it up from everywhere and you just find your own method of doing it. The next thing you know, you're the one trying to instruct kids on figuring it out."

That kind of leadership in the classroom is what industrial technology teacher Paul Webster expects from students. It pushes them to use their skills to solve their own problems, while also helping other students with their problems.

"That's what David has been so good at for the last three years," Webster said. "It's pushed him that extra little bit, doing all that practice and reiterating it to himself."

Experience with problem solving is what helped the students sweep the competition, Webster said. Buying double the amount of metal to practice on this school year helped, too.

The students said they have to want to learn welding to be successful, and that motivation comes, in part, out of knowing how universally the craft can be used.

Senior A.J. House, who took third place, views welding as more of a complementary skill than a future career path. He uses welding to in his stock car racing hobby.

"I use welding all the time to fix and build road cages," House said. "It's something that nobody can take away from you once you learn it."

"It's probably one of the most useful skills you can have realistically," Aho added.

Both Aho and House took a welding class with Webster this semester that gives them access to a variety of tools that they don't have at home, such as a plasma cutter, stick welder and a TIG (tungsten inert gas) welder.

The other two students who competed in the competition didn't enroll in the welding class, but both also had prior access to welding equipment from their families.

Sophomore Seth Ridlon, who placed second, said he's hopeful that welding could turn into a career for him some day. When Ridlon gets his work done in other industrial technology classes, Weber lets him and other students practice welding.

Another sophomore, Justin Aho, whose cousin is David Aho, placed fourth. Ridlo and Justin Aho plan to compete in the competition again next year.

The competition is divided into four sections. Students must complete gas metal arc welding; shielded metal arc welding, also known as stick welding; Oxy Fuel welding; and a written test.