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MTEC class welds lanterns for WVU Medicine gala

MORGANTOWN — What started off as one idea, blossomed into another.

With the West Virginia University Medicine Children’s Gala slated for tonight, organizers reached out to Don Robinette’s welding class at the Monongalia County Technical Education Center for assistance with making some of the decorations and ornaments that would be used for the fundraising event.

“I am a former teacher from MTEC and worked with Don Robinette for several years,” said Deidra Marshall. “He graciously accepted and they created amazing lanterns for the entrance of the gala. MTEC has a history with the WVU Medicine Children’s Gala. The construction class has made three playhouses for our auction in the past.”

This year’s gala theme is “Moonlight in Morocco.” It is a fundraiser for WVU Medicine Children’s to support patient services, specialized equipment for patient care and family care and support programs the hospital offers.

At first, Marshall, one of the co-chairs for this year’s gala, hoped that Robinette’s class could make a fire ring that would be auctioned off during the gala, but soon that turned into the idea of making large metal Moroccan lanterns to further the design aspects of the gala’s theme.

“While we were talking, she showed me a picture of the lanterns that they were thinking about using and asked if we could make them as well,” Robinette said. “The design of the lanterns fit in with their theme for this year’s gala, ‘Moonlight in Morocco.’ I thought it would be a great project for our students to take on.”

The lanterns themselves are made of 1/8-inch steel with removable top covers that allow for the lights to be installed and the interior to be painted.

To expedite the production of the lanterns and make it more efficient, Robinette’s class used a kind of assembly line-type setup.

“After (the students) made the first one, they were able to come up with a plan to help with the production,” Robinette said.

First, one student would cut out the metal parts on the CNC Plasma cutter. After the pieces were cut, a few other students would start cleaning the pieces to prepare for welding. Next, two students fitted and tack-welded everything together. Once it was tacked, a group of students welded all the seams of the lanterns. Finally, once the lanterns were complete, Robinette instructed his students to do a quality control check to ensure there were no mistakes or errors with the lanterns before they were delivered to Marshall and the gala organizers.

MTEC’s advanced welding class consists of 15-20 students from all three Morgantown-area high schools. Also, these students are in their second year of the welding program and before they graduate, will have the opportunity to become a certified welder, which Robinette says makes them more attractive to potential employers.

“It gave them some real world experience in working with a customer and a chance for them to showcase the skills that they are learning,” Robinette said. “It also gave them a sense of pride to be able to help the Children’s Hospital and to be able to say ‘look what we made.’”