welding studentsA team of four Cuesta College student welders won an Arizona regional competition that first tested their ability to create a home barbecue and then to cook a meal with it.

John Fiscalini of Cambria, Simon Rowe and Kyle Peterson of San Luis Obispo, and Steven Cox of Santa Maria were named grand champions of the 2012 Welding Fabrication Team Invitational held Oct. 19-20 at Arizona Western College Institute Of Welding Technology in Yuma. The competition was sponsored by Welders Without Borders-Welding Thunder.

The quartet, coached by Cuesta welding instructors Mike Fontes and Rob Thoresen, also won first place in welding fabrication and took third in a culinary arts competition that tested their ability to barbecue using their eight-sided ebony cooker.

“They were a super group of students and faculty,” said Samuel Colton, event organizer. “Their project just blew away everyone. We were really happy they participated. They certainly raised the bar for the whole event.”

The first-ever competition attracted 10 high school and community college teams from California and Arizona.

Fontes said the students — all veterans of SkillsUSA national competitions — had just eight hours over two days to assemble a barbecue out of steel from a plan. While temperatures approached triple digits, the team worked in a parking lot under pop-up tents, using a welding rig they brought on a trailer specially made by Fontes.

Cuesta’s team completed the project, which most teams didn’t, and customized it with a Cuesta Welding name plate, topped the cooker with a polished silver metal bear cutout and added a star to the chrome smoke stack.

Colton, who noted that the invitational will move to San Diego in 2013, said Cuesta “deserved first place. Everybody that went down and took a look at the work they turned out in the last two days (knew) you guys were awesome.”

Fontes agreed, adding that even the judges, all seasoned welding professionals, were impressed by the young welders’ skill and poise under pressure.

“They had never seen teamwork on that level,” the Cuesta welding instructor said. “The welding was flawless. It was unbelievable.”

Cuesta’s Peterson even built a special, complex tool that allowed his teammates to precisely bend steel; other teams had to cut and weld the steel plates to form the octagonally shaped barbecue called for in the plans.

“This proves that the quality of the programs offered here at Cuesta College are some of the best in the United States,” said John Stokes, Cuesta’s engineering and technology division chair. “We can compete against any other college, and not only be competitive, but excel. The students coming out of our programs are qualified not only to immediately get jobs, but jobs with high wages and great job satisfaction.”

Fontes pointed out that several Cuesta students received job offers during the contest. In addition, the team took home prizes, including protective welding gear, from sponsors that included Lincoln Electric, Miller Electric Mfg. Co. and the American Welding Society.

Jay Thompson | (805) 546-3100, ext. 2636 | Email: jay_thompson@cuesta.edu | Posted Nov. 7, 2012