Sierra College’s welding students are more prepared than ever for careers after college, thanks to a new program that combines the world of welding with math fundamentals. “Employers report that skilled employees can’t apply fractions, decimals and basic math to their work,” reported Carol Pepper-Kittredge, director of the Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies. “Infusing math into welding shows great potential to address the skills gap before students go into the workforce.” In partnership with West Virginia University, the IGNITE project was developed and funded by the National Science Foundation. IGNITE stands for Infusing Gen-ed Into Technical Education. “From one side of the nation to the other, we collaborated on ideas and methods to incorporate math into a hands-on program like welding,” said Welding Department Chair Bill Wenzel, who developed the program with Math Department Chair Katie Lucero. "So instead of a student sitting in a math class going through the applications of algebra, calculus or trigonometry, they’re now sitting in class where they’re using a hands-on project and realizing, ‘Why, I need to know how to do adding, subtracting and fractions to use a tape measure, and how I can use algebra to solve an equation that I need to use now to do this project.’” This is the second year for the program, in which students in two welding classes spend part of their time in the classroom, working on fundamental math skills such as multiplying and dividing fractions, and then take those skills into the workshop, where they apply them to welding projects. Welding Technology 10 students each make a hibachi grill, welding the components they’ve measured using math basics. They use fractions to determine how many lengths of a measurement could be cut from one rod, and calculate how much material is needed for the grill. They also go through exercises such as comparing the construction costs of two grill designs.

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