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Making Sparks for Industry and Art

By Kim Singer
Welding is critical to both the energy and manufacturing industries in North Dakota. With power plants producing energy, those facilities have to be maintained 24 hours a day. "It requires the skill of welding. You also have manufacturing in this state – John Deere, Case, Caterpillar, Bobcat, Tru North Steel – that utilize welders,” said David Mozingo, assistant professor of welding at BSC. “There is a broad range of how welding touches all our lives from industry to entertainment. It is in everything we use – this chair, this building, your car, your oven, your microwave, the soldered joints that are in your computer or, if it’s formed plastic, the machine that formed it was welded together,” he said. Welding’s reach has even expanded to BSC’s Art Department.

In the process of getting his bachelor’s degree, Mozingo took an art class and really enjoyed it. “I think it’s important for our welding students to realize that welding does not have to be under the hood sweating, you can have fun with it.” So, he visited with David Lewellyn, BSC assistant professor of visual arts, and they worked to establish a sculptural welding class. “The whole purpose was integration of students, the cross pollinating. Look what else you can do. You’re here to learn more than one skill,” said Lewellyn. It began in Fall 2017 semester with eight students from the art department. “It sparked an interest. They had the artistic mind to think, ‘Can I join this material to that material?’ It challenged me,” said Mozingo.

Lewellyn, who has worked in bridge-building and manufacturing and is fully integrated in all things art, teaches the class. “The introduction for this younger generation to these things that involve fire and loud noises and smells is new to them. A lot of these young people have never touched anything but a glass screen. They’ve never touched a pliers, none of it.” He also shared how valuable it is to have the welding students discover the fun aspects of their work. “When we’re kids, playtime is serious business. We are getting after it, but it is so much fun. At some point in time, it gets separated where work is not fun and fun is not work.” For art students, he instills that this is serious business even though they have fun doing it. “The art students are a lot of times not as convicted to the proposition of what are they going to do as an artist.”

One of Lewellyn’s students, Cody Boechler, is completing his generals at BSC, and then plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Minot State University. “It’s fun. I love this class. I have to be late every time, because one of my other classes overlaps with it. I run to my vehicle so I can get here. This is my favorite class I’ve ever had in college so far.” He was exposed to welding in high
school, but enjoys how the sculpture class challenges him. “It’s trying to creatively think about what I can create out of this metal in front of me.”

Another student taking the class is Judy Carlsen. Since retiring from her position as State Bee Inspector at the North Dakota State Agriculture Department, she is in her fifth year of taking classes at BSC – usually taking two each semester. “My husband calls me his little co-ed.” She enjoyed the class so much, she’s taking it again. “When I went to high school, girls did not take shop. I don’t know if you could if you wanted to. I had never used power tools.” She really likes taking BSC’s art classes, and said it’s something she wanted to do 40 years ago. “I’ve liked art all my life.” And, she’s been able to tie her passions together by creating sculpture insects.

The class was so well received by one student, she left the art department to pursue welding. “That was the first time I ever picked up a welder. I fell in love with it, and knew that’s what I wanted to do,” said Melissa Rath, who just completed her first semester in the welding program. “I’m definitely grateful there are so many options BSC offers and that I was allowed to switch over.” And, she isn’t concerned about the fact that welding is a male-dominated field. “It’s not really a big deal. It shouldn’t really matter if you’re a man or a woman if you enjoy doing it.”

Both Mozingo and his colleague Dennis Howard, assistant professor of welding, speak very highly of women welders – both the students they’ve had and the ones they’ve worked with in the field. “Bring your A game or they will weld circles around you. They hold their own,” said Howard. Mozingo also shared that women have better hand-eye coordination than men, better dexterity and longer attention spans. “I enjoy looking back at the history of welding. One of my favorite periods is World War II when all of the men were off to war, and who was left to build the battle ships? The females. The employers were astounded at how good their quality of work was and their work ethics were on point,” said Mozingo.

The sculptures created by students are on display in the courtyard outside BSC’s Skogen Hall