By Amanda Carlson
It’s not every day high school-aged kids get to assist law enforcement officers in their duty to serve and protect, but four students at a
technical school in Franklin, Mass., were given
The Massachusetts State Police was looking
for someone to fabricate 13 custom battering
rams—a heavy object that is swung or rammed
against a door or window to break it open—for
officers to train with and use on the job. Originally the department contacted a job shop to
build them, but they were very expensive ($500
apiece) and didn’t turn out to be what the officers wanted.
That’s when the department reached out to
administrators at Tri-County Regional Vocational
Technical High School to find out if the students
in the metal fabrication career vocation could
handle the request. Administrators forwarded
the request to instructor Robert Pierangeli, who
thought it was a great opportunity.
Real-World Work Experience
Tri-County’s welding and metal fabrication program is roughly 60 students strong from grades
nine through 12. Students are separated into
two groups—grades nine and 11 and grades 10
and 12—who then alternate weekly between the
shop and the classroom. While the freshmen
and juniors spend one week taking their academic classes, the sophomores and seniors are
in their vocational shop welding. The groups flip
schedules the following week.
Generally speaking, the metal fabrication department is happy to accept jobs from the community as long as they don’t turn into repetitive
“If it’s just a repetitive job like making 1,000
brackets, they learn something making the first
five and then it just turns into mass production,”
The low-volume and customized nature of the
battering ram project meant the kids would be
able to stretch their imaginations and use some
of the newer equipment in the shop like the CNC
plasma table, all for a good cause.
The police were looking for a specific type of
design for their battering ram. Because these
tools sometimes are used in confined spaces
like tight apartment hallways, they needed to be
small enough to swing back with enough force
to break down a door, for example. The police
also wanted something that was comfortable to
use and would protect their hands from injury.
Pierangeli chose four students—James Corco-
ran, Mollie Walsh, Bruce Farrand, and Trevor
Walsh—who had the welding, fabricating, and
design skills necessary to complete the job.
“I chose the kids who held AWS certifications
in 7018 shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) and
flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) and who were
proficient in torches. The young lady I chose is
very good at designing and using the CNC plas-
ma machine,” Pierangeli said.
The group started with a prototype design
that was 3 ft. long, but the police department
came back to them and requested that it be
smaller. They also stated that they wanted the
rear handle tipped backward to give officers
more leverage in the backswing, which is crucial
when using the tool in tight hallways.
With this feedback in mind, the group de-
signed a battering ram that was a modest 18 in.
long. They used re-rod for the customized rear
handle and performed the bend using an oxy-
“Round rod can be slippery in your hand, so
one of the kids came up with the idea to use
5/8-in.-dia. re-rod. It’s got a little bit of roughness
to it, like a grip. The policemen loved it. You don’t
want to look like a fool using one of these and
throw it right through the door,” Pierangeli said.
On the end of the ram they placed a ½-in. round
plate that was 5 in. in diameter and welded with
three passes—two using a 7018 SMAW and one
FCAW. All critical welds had triple passes to en-
sure the ram wouldn’t break or crack on impact.
Nothing was outsourced. Everything was fab-
ricated and welded in-house, and the school’s
auto collision vocational program lent their
painting expertise. In all, the students needed
roughly 40 to 50 hours to complete the project
at an overall cost of $650, which is $50 per tool.
Because of the media attention this project
generated, Pierangeli said the school has received
a number of calls from other police departments.
He added that the state police has indicated that
it wants every officer in Massachusetts to have
one of these battering rams in their cruiser.
“They’re small enough to fit behind the seats,
so if officers have to get out quickly and bust the
window of a car or something, they could just
grab this thing and go.”
Overall, it was a worthwhile project for all in-
“It was just great to work on something where
the state police and the kids could trade ideas.
As a teacher it’s nice to see kids get so involved,”
Contributing editor Amanda Carlson can be reached at
Photos courtesy of Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical
High School, Franklin, Mass., 508-528-5400, www.tri-county.us
Read more from Amanda Carlson at
High school welding students fabricate
battering rams for state police
Real-world work experience goes toward a good cause
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(From left) James Corcoran, Bruce Farrand, instructor
Robert Pierangeli, Mollie Walsh, and Trevor Walsh of
Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School
in Franklin, Mass., were instrumental in designing and
fabricating 13 battering rams for the Massachusetts
At only 18 in. long, the tools were designed to operate in
confined spaces, such as tight apartment hallways. The
state police have indicated that they would like every
cruiser to contain one of these battering rams.