A love for welding helps two Dexter students succeed at welding competition


Mikala Sposito in action.

The welding program at the South & West Washtenaw Consortium was well represented at the 31st Annual High School Welding Invitational, which included Dexter High school seniors Mikala Sposito placing 2nd overall and Elliott Bell getting 1st in the SMAW category.

The welding event was hosted by Washtenaw Community College earlier this month. The Sun Times News caught up with Bell and Sposito to ask them about their success.

“As a class we did very well and I'm very proud of everyone,” Sposito said. “I worked extremely hard for this competition and I'm happy that it paid off.”

Bell agreed with this and said, “It feels great that we placed so well as a class, and that our hard work paid off.”

The competition consists of seven categories. Students can choose to compete in the beginner or advanced categories in the SMAW, GTAW, or cutting processes. The most difficult category being Overall, which requires students to perform weldments in the SMAW, GMAW, GTAW, OAC, and PAC processes.

Here are the types of welding performed at the competition: Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), Shielded Metal Arc Welding or Stick Welding (SMAW), Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), Plasma Arc Cutting (PAC) and Oxy Welding (OAC).

Both Bell and Sposito said the event at WCC was very fast paced, competitive and gratifying.

This photo was posted on Facebook by Dread Strong to celebrate DHS seniors Elliott Bell (at center in black t-shirt) and Mikala Sposito (second person from the right). They are holding some of the prizes from the competition.

Their instructor at SWWC, Blake Ballou, commended them and all of his students for their hard work.

“I am very proud of my students for all they have accomplished, not only what they achieved in this competition, but everything leading up to it,” Ballou said. “I look forward to what the future holds for these students.”

The competition at WCC had 11 high schools in attendance with a total of 164 competitors. The success for Bell and Sposito can be traced back in part to the SWWC.

The welding program at the SWWC is open to any student interested in metalworking and the world of fabrication. Its website says, “Students will be introduced to the use and application of basic hand tools & power tools as well as modern fabrication equipment while constructing projects made from metal.”

The SWWC provides Career and Technical Education (CTE) opportunities to 11th and 12th grade students enrolled in the Chelsea, Dexter, Lincoln, Manchester, Milan and Saline school districts.

Noting that the program is a gateway to endless opportunities, Ballou said “The welding program gives students the opportunity to learn hands on and help them explore new career possibilities.”

This sentiment was echoed by Sposito and Bell.

“The welding class at SWWC is a stepping stone to my career and allows me many opportunities to set me up for success,” Sposito said.

Of welding, Bell said, “It will play a huge role in my future career.”

Ballou said over 100 students participate in the SWWC welding program, varying in skill level.

But it’s not just a potential career motivating the students, Bell and Sposito also say it gives them an opportunity to learn outside of the traditional classroom setting.

“I enjoy welding because it's hands-on and allows me to express my creativity,” Sposito said

Bell had a similar take, “I like welding because it is hands-on and I am learning a new skill.”

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