By Dan Davis
It’s a wonderful time for an educator when a bridge can be built between classroom learning and real-world experience.
Curt Claycomb and his welding students at Northland Career Center in Platte City, Mo., got to experience just that in 2015. That’s when the municipality of Platte Woods, Mo., a small city surrounded by
Kansas City, Mo., approached the career and technical school about fabricating a footbridge for the
local Emerson Park.
The opportunity meshed perfectly with the
school’s commitment to creating educational environments that simulate real-world workplaces.
Northland Career Center has been working on this
style of project-based learning over the past four
years. The goal is to offer students not only the expected classroom and technical instruction normally associated with their desired area of learning, but
also have them replicate tasks that they might be
expected to accomplish in their chosen fields. This
was going to be a big deal for the welding class.
“It was the largest thing that we ever built,” said
Claycomb, industrial welding instructor.
This project wasn’t just about joining metal tub-
ing together to create the bridge. The students were
responsible for everything. They put together a
in the Southeast that was able to provide and de-
liver for a reasonable price. They also arranged for
pickup and delivery of the bridge.
Of course, the students also were able to employ
their fabricating skills (see Figures 1 and 2). Again,
they handled the production decisions. In this instance, because they were working inside, they
elected to use the gas metal arc welding process to
join the tubing and 70S- 6 general-purpose welding
wire. They looked at a welding wire designed specifically for the rusting steel, but ultimately decided
that such wire was not really needed, just as long as
the welders didn’t lay down too much metal.
In the end, the biggest takeaway for the students
was how they handled the entire project, according
“The biggest thing that they get out of a project
like this is ownership of it. They know that they
made it,” Claycomb said. “Several students took
their parents over to show them their work. I even
The welding students showed a lot of enthusiasm in the bid to complete the bridge job before
the end of the 2015 school year. Claycomb said it
wasn’t unusual to see them working on a Friday
night, when most of their peers had begun their
weekend party plans.