FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Pee Dee welders put their skills to the test at a Florence technical college to pay tribute to our county and its heroes.
More than four dozen students and professional welders from the Pee Dee area competed in Florence Darlington Technical College's 2nd Annual Welding Rodeo. The welders set up shop at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SIMT) where they used pieces of scrap metal to make art.
"This is great recruiting for us because all these kids out here, they're just having such a good time and they get a chance to weld and enjoy it," FDTC Welding Program Director Ross Gandy said. He and the competitions organizers decided on "patriotism" for this year's theme.
"I love the theme," Student Bobby McKenzie said. "It's our homeland, you know? It's where we live so why not show it off?" McKenzie will graduate from FDTC's welding program this year
The competition is broken down into student and professional divisions. Each team of four has eight hours to construct a sculpture from pieces of scrap metal.
Students from two vocational schools and three technical schools in the county comprised the student division.
"It's not as simple as it looks, but once you learn it, it's just like writing your name," explained Bobby McKenzie. The competition is designed to make students to apply skills leaned in the classroom to real-life applications.
"They need more people to work in nuclear power, and so we're addressing that in our pipe welding academy," Media-Relations Director Clay Williams said. He explained the nuclear energy industry is rapidly growing and calls for the specialized skills of pipe welders.
"There's going to be more nuclear power plants in South Carolina, and so we need to have folks who are trained to work in that type of environment." Williams said this kind of welding will play a vital role in the rebuilding of the areas of Japan damaged by the March 11 earthquake disaster, including the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.
Central Carolina Technical College's welding team is the reigning champions, winning the competition for the second consecutive year. Their sculpture featured the twin towers of the World Trade Center and military personnel raising a flag at its base. They won $10,000 worth welding equipment, which will be donated to the college.
Dillon High School's Vocational School took home second place and Florence-Darlington Technical College's welding team finished third.
NUCOR of Darlington County won the competitions professional division. They also won last year's inaugural rodeo. Their welders crafted the famous Liberty Bell and took home the $1,600 grand prize. GE of Florence finished second and wins $1,200. Honda of South Carolina rounded out the professional division with third place and an $800 prize.
NUCOR's sculpture sold for $2,500. Central Carolina's piece fetched a bid of $500. The money raised at the auction will fund scholarships offered through the Tech Foundation.
they dive in that scrap and they get pieces of metal and they cut it out and weld it together and they make a sculpture. And they do really beautiful work."