After staring at my steel-toed boots on the scale, the tall nurse asked me what I do. (I did not have the energy to remove them and decided just not to look at what that darned number is with the steel included.)
“I am an academic instructor who works in a welding program,” I said.
“Academics? What academics do welders need?”
By then, she was directing me to sit in the exam room for my routine appointment and looking at my chart on the computer station.
“Well…,” I said, thinking on the material and assignments I’m still developing in my first two weeks with the program. On Saturdays, I’ve been watching videos and reading the textbooks in order to do my job well. I took a deep breath before diving in.
“They need to use fractions and tape measures, they need to know angles and geometry, they need to lay out a project to put things together, and they need to be able to write well enough to send emails for communication about projects.. There is chemistry for them to understand, too,” I said. I didn’t want to go on forever so I didn’t mention CAD and all the other processes I don’t yet understand much.
She stared at me and asked about the vitamins I’m taking.
After a beat, she said, “I’m glad you told me all this. It used to just be the dumb guys.”
I blinked at her.
Here is what I need to think about when I weld:
- How many amps for the machine I’m using and for the size of the electrode?
- What is the tensile strength of the electrode for the work? What weld position is it designed for?
- What is my work angle? What is my travel angle? (It should be around 5 to 10 percent in both directions–to my right and towards me. They keep telling me this but when there is an electrical arc with such bright light I need to have my helmet shade set at 12, this can be trouble to figure out.)
- Am I going too fast? (Yes. Especially in the beginning.)
- Am I going too slow? (I’m starting to do that now.)
- What is my arc length, the distance between the tip of the electrode and the surface? Too close or too far will degrade the weld. The slower I go, the more quickly the electrode melts so this is a constantly moving and changing target as I also move across the work.
And these are just the things to think about for the horizontal weld on a flat plate that I’ve done in my first two weeks working in the program. It’s only for Shielded Metal Arc Welding which they tell me is the easiest of many types. Believe me. There is much more taught in the 7 quarter program, and I didn’t even talk about what went into the oxy-acetylene torch we used to cut the pieces for the X box we are making for our practice.
It’s easy for me to feel lost and overwhelmed in the shop. Fortunately, I work with colleagues and students who are far more understanding of me than that nurse was of them.
I suspect the nurse had never welded or even watched the videos. Although I was glad to have helped her change her view, I was also shocked that she would say such a thing. About anyone, let alone the people I so admire.
It was never the dumb guys. The academics are here, there, and everywhere.