Last spring, the ag department at Delta High School was challenged to give the school's "welcome" sign a facelift.
The granite sign, a project of the National Honor Society, was encased in a brick structure in the grassy area just off Pioneer Road. After being constantly sprayed with water from the sprinkler system, the bricks were cracking and the stone was getting stained.
With their ag teacher, Kendal Butterfield, a team of students including Kole Granger, Brendon Starr, Clayton Cotten and Dusty Long visited Morris Monument, where the sign was being cleaned and gathered all necessary information, such as dimensions and weight. The sign itself weighed over 2,000 pounds, thus the strength of the base was the primary focus of design. They began designing a frame and then contacted Swede Carlson for his expertise. They gave a formal presentation to Carlson, an industry professional, including background, materials available, timeline, design ideas, and questions.
Strength was the primary concern of this structure, followed by cosmetics and additional focus of serving as a welcome arch that would look similar to the arch at the entrance to the football field. Carlson consulted the students and then made routine stops to DHS to check on their progress and be available for assistance. The students cut the material, welded the frame, cut the welcome letters using the school's plasma cutter and plasma table, cleaned the frame, and then sent it to Line-X in Montrose for the protective green coating. Once the base was returned to DHS, students took it to the Delta County Fair to be exhibited. The project won a blue ribbon in the agricultural mechanics displays. It then returned to Delta High School and was mounted in front of the school by current agriculture students.
As a certified welder with 50 years of experience, Swede Carlson said he was pleased to show the students the right way to do a job. He found the students to be receptive, courteous, sincere and honest. "I really enjoyed working with them," he said.
In fact, he enjoyed the experience so much he solicited a donation from the Delta Elks Lodge to help the ag department upgrade its welding equipment.
Brendon Starr says the students wrapped up the project just a few days prior to graduation. He and Kole Granger are now attending the lineman program at Western Colorado Community College in Grand Junction. Both are looking forward to landing a career that offers benefits and job security, while also allowing them to work with their hands.
Granger is especially pleased with the new location of the sign, which is closer to the front entrance of the school. The biggest challenge, he said, was rolling and bending the metal so the arch was evenly proportioned. Welding is a skill he picked up in ag class, but he learned even more from Carlson.
"Working with Swede was great for our team," said Clayton Cotten. While friends before they embarked on the project, Clayton said they truly became a team as they worked through the details of the project. Cotten is now studying aircraft maintenance at Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Denver. In 18 months, he'll graduate as an aeronautical technician, a skilled position that will provide a wide variety of career options. "I like working with my hands, and I've always been interested in airplanes, so I decided this would be a good route," Cotten said.
Only Dusty Long still attends Delta High School. He's now a junior and the treasurer of Delta High School's FFA Chapter. He's enrolled in the ag mechanics program at the Technical College of the Rockies, a program he views as a path to a career in the automotive industry.
Regardless of their career paths, this project gave all four students an opportunity to learn new skills by making a lasting contribution to Delta High School.