New Welding Equipment Benefits Agricultural Education Student Teachers

Ryan Anderson watches while a student welds using the virtual welder.

AMES, Iowa — New welding equipment at Iowa State University, including a computer-assisted virtual welder, is allowing the Department of Agricultural Education and Studies to offer classes that haven't been available for several years. Ryan Anderson, assistant professor of agricultural education and studies, said the new welders are being used to teach students who are preparing for student teaching assignments in high school vocational agriculture programs. This type of course hasn't been offered since 1992. The new equipment also provides the opportunity to offer workshops for instructors who are teaching and want to improve their welding skills. Anderson said the equipment represents the latest in welding technology. The "virtual welder" purchased from the Lincoln Electric Co. provides a realistic experience so students can learn welding while an instructor watches on a computer screen. He said Iowa State is the first four-year teacher education institution to use the welder, which has been described as a computer built into a welding machine. "It allows our students to learn some of the basic skills of welding before entering the welding booths," he said. A screen fitted into the device's welding hood includes displays that monitor the welding and offers tips to correct mistakes. It also reduces the waste of metal that occurs as students learn welding. The hi-tech welder, valued at $55,000, was acquired through a grant supported by university student computer fees. A video of Anderson and a student demonstrating the virtual welder is on the web. Miller Electric Mfg. Co. donated 12 multi-purpose welders that provides the three major welding processes offered in the industry, and a discounted ventilation system. The value of the equipment was about $220,000. Students from the department constructed welding booths for the new welders, which are located in a building at the student-run Ag 450 Farm, south of Ames.