jesse berry

Jesse Berry welds in the welding lab at UAFS. Berry, along with four other students, welded
an important piece of training equipment for the Fort Smith Fire Dept.

The Fort Smith Fire Dept. now has a valuable piece of training equipment thanks to five University of Arkansas – Fort Smith welding students.


Students in Jason Keye’s special projects class and Mike Crawford’s MIG Welding class constructed a ventilation prop for the fire department. The structure can be added onto to simulate a rooftop for firefighters to practice cutting holes to release smoke and heat built up during a house fire.


The 13 foot-tall, 1,700 pound structure took students two weeks to complete by cutting beams and welding them together, a project that challenged students far past their usual class assignments.


“In normal class projects, everything is set up for us and we can move it as much as we want,” said Hunter Wilhelm of Van Buren. “But the prop was too heavy to move, so we had to move around it and weld from odd angles.”


“It gives them an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in class to a real project,” said Bobby Jones, department head of automotive, electronics, general and welding technology. “Instead of simulating projects to weld things together, they’re getting the real deal here.”


Mark Hess, division chief of training with the Fort Smith Fire Dept., approached Jones earlier in the semester about crafting the prop and was grateful for the cost savings.


“Financially, it was an incredible help,” he said. “This saved us tens of thousands of dollars, which was huge. Anytime we get to sharpen our skills in training makes us more efficient and safer on emergency scenes.”


Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology, said the project served the dual purpose of being a community service and educational opportunity.


“We are all about teaching in the context of tangible projects that allow students to apply their learnings,” Warden said. “This is another example of how UAFS serves the community while making the educational experience more applicable to the world of work. We appreciate Chief Hess and the opportunity to help the Fort Smith Fire Department.”


Students participating in the project were:


Barling: Levi Myers.


Greenwood: Wendi Learned.


Muldrow, Okla.: Larry Moore.


Siloam Springs: Jesse Berry.


Van Buren: Hunter Wilhelm.


For more information about the welding program at UAFS, contact Danielle Jolie, advising coordinator for the College of Applied Science and Technology, at 479-788-7784 or


About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit


Article by John Post, Director of Public Information
Photo Credits: 
Photo by Rachel Putman, Photographer, Marketing and Communications Office
Date Posted: 
Thursday, October 20, 2016
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