Teaching Teens How to TIG Weld

For the last few weeks, I've been teaching TIG welding at the Crucible's Youth Summer Camps! I learned how to weld when I was 14, and it's so cool that I'm now in a position to teach other young people how to weld.

Learning how to MIG, TIG, blacksmith, machine, and anodize when I was in high school had a profound impact on my teenage years. I was a quiet, studious high schooler who loved drawing and painting. But when I first stepped into the metal shop in ninth grade, I was intimidated -- I didn't see how I'd ever get comfortable with the scary-looking tools. But my shop teacher, David Clifford, taught me how to use every tool safely and confidently. And slowly, I began to see that I could use these powerful machines to create beautiful objects from my imagination. My confidence grew, and I fell in love with metalworking.

Working on my high school senior project.

Fast-forward thirteen years: David is still one of my dearest mentors (he actually served as a reference for me when I applied for the teaching job at the Crucible), and over the last couple weeks, I've taught nearly 30 young people aged 13-18 how to TIG weld. It's been an amazing experience! I'm starting to figure out what kinds of explanations and demos are most helpful, and I'm developing my own teaching style.

I've been totally blown away by my students' creativity. So far, they've made miniature art cars, spaceships, elephants, coasters, robots, cars, bridges, pencil holders, stars, factories, hands, signs, and abstract cube structures. We don't give them that much to work with -- just some sheet metal, nuts and bolts, maybe a little leftover perforated sheet -- but they make magic out of it. 

It's also amazing to see their progression over the course of a week. On Monday, they're figuring out how to wield the TIG torch, which requires a lot of coordination and finesse. That's when they need the most instruction and feedback. By Tuesday, they're successfully doing fusion welds, using filler rod, and assembling little cubes. By Wednesday, nearly every student has a project in mind, and they're figuring out how to begin fabrication. On Thursday and Friday, I'm just a consultant, doing custom cuts here and there and helping problem-solve when needed. At the end of week, the Crucible hosts a gallery walk in which youth camp students across all departments (TIG, arc, blacksmithing, foundry, jewelry, glassblowing, kinetics, leather, etc.) showcase their work for each other and for parents. The students are always beaming, and I feel like a proud parent!

Dream team Jazzy and Kobe

None of this would be possible without Jazzy, my 19-year-old TA, and Kobe, my 17-year-old youth intern. This brother-and-sister duo started taking classes at the Crucible when they were only 12! They help me set up for class each morning, lead demos, mentor students one-on-one, and -- now that they've mastered the horizontal band saw, power shear, and angle grinder -- they're also assisting students with cutting and grinding during class. In return, I'm doing my best to help them add new tools and skills to their own metalworking repertoires. As I'm drafting this, Kobe and I are both working late in the TIG room -- I'm writing, and he's finishing up a gorgeous steel Godzilla sculpture for the Crucible's Fuego Internship showcase. I'm lucky to be teaching (and learning myself!) alongside these two stellar young metalworkers.

Kobe working on Godzilla, his final project for The Crucible's Fuego Internship Showcase

If you live in the Bay Area, come check out the Crucible! They offer tons of amazing classes for both adults and young people. They also host team-building workshops for organizations, which are always a lot of fun (I've taught workshops for companies like Cisco and Zynga). Ask your boss if you can come to the Crucible for your next offsite!