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Gillette College welder vying to reach world competition

October 3, 2018

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — Talk to Colby Uran about the Rube Goldberg-looking gizmos called pressure vessels and he can tell you many of the ways to weld them.

The Gillette College student knows just how many pressure vessels he’s crafted and welded the past three months as he prepares for a chance to represent the nation at an international WorldSkills Competition.

It’s an intense competition and Uran, 19, has dedicated hundreds of hours as he’s worked to complete eight projects, including different types of pressure vessels, test plates and more. The work and the challenge have been enough to keep him up at night.

There are few times of the day when he’s not thinking about it, Uran said.

Now he’s making a second set of the same eight projects for judges who will narrow the field of 25 welders (including the top finishers at the national SkillsUSA competition) to six.

Those six will go on to compete in December in Huntsville, Alabama. The top three finishers there will compete at the end of February and early March to be the top finisher representing America in Kazan, Russia, in August 2019.

Uran will find out Oct. 13 whether he will compete in the 2018 American Welding Society Weld Off on Dec. 1-9 in Alabama. A competitive person, the Casper native said he’s all-in when it comes to this opportunity.

It’s the first time any student at Gillette College has competed at this level. It’s also new for his welding instructor, Troy Miller. This is rarefied air for Gillette.

For Uran, though, it’s not all about winning. He’s enjoyed how far he’s taken his welding ability just by looking at the requirements, figuring out ways to complete them the best way possible and advancing his knowledge.

“I don’t want to do anything else,” he said.

After earning his associate degree in welding this spring, the second-year Gillette College student will have to travel out-of-state to pursue a four-year degree in welding engineering.

“I’ve always been competitive,” Uran said. “I always want to be the best of the best.”

The opportunity to deepen his skills and knowledge is already paying off, he said. Welding is like an art, and Uran would like to one day be a master.

He discovered his love for welding while attending Midwest High School as a junior. He added to that when he took a year of welding classes in Casper at a new hands-on center and a gas leak forced Midwest to close its school for nearly a year.

Then he came to Gillette College after hearing about the solid program it offered. A year ago, he won the state individual welding title and went on to place 12th at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, in July.

He’s worked so hard on this competition that he’s made as many as 10 versions of the same project as he’s tried to improve each one. It’s a process he’s learned to love because it’s helped him focus on what he wants to accomplish and how to get there.

“He can get frustrated at times,” Miller said. “He puts his heart into it and to tell him he has to do it over again and watch him hear that news is kind of heartbreaking.”

“You can’t just make it to what you think is good,” Uran said. “It’s been a challenge to see the best. I’m mostly competing against myself. I’m after perfection.”

He said that, at times, “it’s been a real struggle.”

If he accomplishes his goal of advancing to Russia, he’ll also win a $40,000 four-year scholarship from the American Welding Society and other prizes, including valuable industry training.

Gillette College has supported Uran by providing the materials for his projects.

“My role as an instructor is to help Colby get materials for the project, keep him on track and support him in any way I can,” Miller said. “We are really proud of his hard work and for representing Gillette College so well at the national level.”

“It’s a great opportunity to do something I love and get better at all types of welding,” Uran said. “I’ve put in a ton of hours welding to complete this project, so it is helping me advance my skills.”

Uran also works for Peabody Energy at North Antelope Rochelle mine. They’ve worked out his schedule so he has time to work on his projects and his 14 credit hours, including other classes and homework.

“This stuff, it’s almost like I’m competing in a completely different game,” Uran said.

It’s so different that Uran has had to make four pressure vessels using three types of welding. In the end, the vessels have to withstand 1,000 pounds per square inch of pressure.

To non-welders, it’s like Rube Goldberg gone wild, and Uran is willingly going along for the ride.

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Information from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record, http://www.gillettenewsrecord.com

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