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Safe and efficient: new OHS welding lab

Oregon High School unveiled its new welding lab last week with an eye on the future.

The new lab is built for efficiency, safety, and group learning and will be ready for business at the beginning of the new school year.

OHS officials toured the new lab on July 17. Technical Education Director Josh Nelson said he’s excited to show it off to people, but even more excited to welcome more students throughout the school year.

“We’ve more than doubled our welding capacity, tripled the shop site, and can incorporate machines like the metal lathe and metal mill now,” said Nelson.

In the past, four welding booths were included inside the Agricultural Studies shop, causing the two programs to share space.

With the new welding lab, OHS has upgraded to 10 welding booths along the north and east walls, and included a metal mill, metal lathe, and plasma cutting stations in the middle of the room.

“The top improvements were in safety and efficiency,” said Nelson. “At the head of the room, an instructor can make a quick glance and see every student and what they are doing.”

Speaking of efficiency and safety, the welding booths are CleanAir America’s Low Energy Air Filtration WeldStation models.

The booths feature curtains to stop welding smoke from escaping, and an air filtration system that sucks the hazardous fumes up and away from a student, purifies the air, and sends it back into the room - all with a five-year life cycle on the filters.

“These booths are ideal for environments where heating and cooling are present, because most methods of welding smoke filtration involve pumping the dirty air to the outside of the building,” said Kelly Madden, Sales and Marketing Manager for Clean Air America, Inc.

The booths also use 80 percent less energy than other welding booths, and come equipped with an economizer that automatically starts the machine when an arc is struck and turns off when finished.

Noise pollution was also a factor, Nelson said.

“The old dust collector we used was so loud that when we ran it, you essentially needed to shout for a student to hear you,” he said. “These are so quiet, we can pretty comfortably communicate, which only increases safety.”

The lab is also going to feature five Realityworks Guideweld virtual reality welding simulators, which connect into any Macintosh or Windows computer and are effective for teaching metal inert gas (MIG) welding as well as shielded metal arc welding - also known as stick welding.

Altogether, Nelson says the lab will be great for teaching MIG, stick, and tungsten inert gas welding. Adding to that, it won’t just be for Oregon students; Highland community college and adults looking for certification will be making use of it as well.

Nelson, who graduated from OHS in 2007, says one of the big dreams is to have talented individuals stay in Oregon.

“We’re going to see a 60 percent job demand increase for welders here in the area, and we want to not just teach students, but give them the means to be able to keep their talents in their hometown,” he said. “I was blessed with an opportunity after graduating to come back and make a living in my hometown, and that’s what I want for others, too.”

The lab was funded by a grant from the Rockford-based Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, a philanthropic organization that awards grants to help improve surrounding communities.

The grant was awarded in December.

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