MOSES LAKE — The table in front of the Othello High School team was filled with raw material – old rebar, rusty discs, broken gears, a metal hook. But before the metal art competition ended, that rusty greasy broken metal was going to be repurposed into something terrific.
In fact, Othello welding student Johnny Garza said the team’s scrap-metal interpretation of a turtle was a sure winner. “I guarantee it,” he said.
The annual metal art competition at Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center (CB Tech) challenges competitors to create something terrific, or at least something interesting, out of bits and pieces of random metal. The instructors work to make it as tough as possible, too.
“There’s zero planning they can do ahead of time,” said CB Tech instructor Chad Utter. The instructors get a couple of trailer loads of metal, “totally scrap.” It’s dumped out in front of the competitors first thing in the morning, and they have until mid-afternoon to turn it into something.
Creativity in scrap metal can be noisy, or at least it was at about 10 a.m. Thursday, despite the abundant ear protection. Grinders and welding torches were going full blast.
“You’re not going to be able to hear for weeks,” one competitor shouted to another.
“What?” his friend shouted back.
Competitors do get one small hint, a couple of days before the competition. The theme for 2017 was “wilderness”. But things get more specific at the competition itself, Utter said – each finished work had to include wild animals of some sort.
“Everything has to be done on the fly,” Utter said. But that’s not to say teams didn’t do some brainstorming ahead of time. The Othello team talked over possibilities on the drive to Moses Lake, although, Johnny said, the ideas were all over the place. It wasn’t until they got the scrap metal in front of them that the idea came together.
The Ephrata team had a general idea of the direction they wanted to go. “We’re going to try to make a bird in a tree. That’s the end goal,” said Nathan Duffner.
Once they assembled their scrap metal the plan became a little more elaborate, with more birds added among the trees. “That’s the plan. So far,” said Hannah Macgregor.
The evening CB Tech class selected a stack of – stuff: a damaged empty propane container, discarded gears, metal springs, broken socket chain. Inspiration came from the pile of rusty dirty metal. “It’s going to be an owl with a snake in its talons,” said Enoch Figueroa, Moses Lake.
The 2017 competition included a team from each of the three advanced manufacturing classes at CB Tech and a team from the Moses Lake High School FFA. Other teams came from Warden, Connell, Ephrata, Othello, Wilson Creek and Kamiakan High School in Kennewick.
Utter said the skills necessary to do well in the competition are the same ones employers are looking for in prospective employees. It’s designed to emphasize problem solving, working together and a creative approach to challenges. “Teamwork, creativity, hustle,” he said.
Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.