The local community is starting to see more artistry, thanks to the Central Lakes College Welding Program. It comes through a bright new sign on the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds main entrance, a new logo mounted above the entrance of the new Crosslake Community School, sturdy railings at the Lakes Area BMX track and more.
These recent projects are all part of unique partnerships between CLC’s Welding Program and many area organizations. The concept is still pretty new, but it’s working well for the students and for the organizations, said David Otto, CLC Welding instructor.
“The students really enjoy this type of work,” he said. “Working with community groups, construction professionals, and having to get approval from municipalities for a project is a real life experience they get to work through early on. The enjoyment they have in crafting these projects is an added bonus. They’ll always have that pride as they see their work in the community.”
The Welding Program started doing some community projects about three years ago (One pretty noticeable one is the Paul and Babe bike rack in downtown Brainerd). It wasn’t easy, though – there’s a tremendous amount of planning and overseeing for the instructors, plus a changing student dynamic, motivation and skill level each year.
“The first project had great, positive feedback from the community. Student feedback showed that these projects were the most rewarding and students learned the most from them,” Otto said. “We knew it was something we’d continue when the following year’s students were asking what type of project they were going to do.”
It’s a great partnership for the community groups, too. For the Crow Wing County Fair Board, a fresh entrance logo and sign “really elevates the professional look and hopefully conveys that we have pride in our fairgrounds,” said Corey Hins, Fair Board member. “Now 80,000 fair patrons a year have something new to admire!”
To get to the finished product, welding students met and brainstormed with the fair board on the new look. From there, students created a 3D model of the new sign, used the CNC plasma table to cut shapes, assembled the parts and finally had it power coated.
“I’ve seen some of the program’s work prior, but the finished result of our sign exceeded my expectations,” Hins said. “The enthusiasm of the students and the interaction with them as a client was awesome. The confidence the instructors had in allowing their students to lead every aspect of this project is testament to the work they are doing in their classrooms and labs.”
For the Lakes Area BMX rails, students designed a fixture to locate all of the individual spindles, following state code. Next, they MIG welded the components together and did some on-site fabrication when the hand rails were installed.
For the Crosslake Community School sign, students met with the school board and construction company. With the feedback, they made a design, cut the components and worked with the construction company in how to mount the sign to the building.
“One of the goals we have as a school is to connect with our surrounding community in any way possible…Knowing the strong Welding Program at CLC and the talented students and staff, the LAKE Foundation felt that it would be a great opportunity to showcase the talents of our area college students and put more local fingerprints to a building project that is rich with local skilled labor,” said Todd Lyscio, the school’s director. “We as a school are proud to be able to recognize the CLC Welding Program and students as it can also showcase educational opportunities for our students as they graduate from our program and are looking to further their education.”
Looking forward, the CLC Welding students will likely continue their work on community projects, Otto said.
“Why is it so important? The Brainerd area and CLC have one of the best welding labs in the state. It is our goal to have our community be proud of us and excited that we are here,” he said. “Doing our part and being involved in the community is how we work together and make our home a more enjoyable place for everybody. It is so important to have the community support our program. Without our local companies like Clow Stamping, Pequot Tool, Brunswick, and Avantech, our students would not have materials to weld on.”