WIUM Tristates Public Radio

New Tool for FMHS Welding Shop

Jan 22, 2015

Jim King smiled from ear to ear throughout Monday's news conference, which was called to announce the acquisition of his newest teaching tool.

The new plasma cutter at the FMHS welding shop was donated by Iowa Fertilizer Company.

King is the welding instructor at Fort Madison High School and sitting in the middle of his shop is a new plasma cutter, courtesy of Iowa Fertilizer Company.  He knows what it means to his students to have access to this type of equipment.

"About every industry to go to today has an industrial type machine like this," said King.  "If the students have an idea of what it is, how to do it, and an idea of the tricks it can do, it makes it a lot easier for that transition from high school to the industry."

The plasma cutter is a square, blue steel table with the actual "cutter" attached to one edge of the table.

"It's just a real neat piece of equipment," said King.  "The machine will cut (a design) out and it will look like it came from the factory.  All of the edges are round and all of the holes are perfect."

King said it can cut through metal as much as 1" thick through a process that combines electricity and highly-pressurized air being forced through a nozzle.

"As it comes out that tip, it's a very sharp, piercing, cutting action," said King.

The machine is computer-based, so the user loads a design into the system.

Iowa Fertilizer Company President Shawn Rana said the roughly $15,000 piece of equipment is an investment in the future of southeast Iowa.  He said the company, which is building a plant near Wever, wants to be a part of the community.

"We are part of the community.  We live here, we work here, our employees are form here and so we want to be a contributing member."

Rana said the company wanted to invest in education, in particular STEM initiatives, so this donation made the most sense.

"We want to create an education system in this local area that encourages kids to enter industries that are rewarding," said Rana.

And the machine cuts it out in a matter of seconds.

Jim King showed off the new plasma cutter after the news conference concluded.  He cut the design of a bloodhound, the Fort Madison High School mascot, out of a sheet of metal in about 20 seconds.

He said this machine can also be used by other departments, including collaborative projects between his students and the Art department.

King says the kids will have to learn more about the new plasma cutter, though, before they can take their turn using the new addition to the welding shop.