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Provo High’s welding teacher Kaleb Money’s reputation precedes him. He and his students make waves.
“I’m here before and after classes, and I even work on cars after school in a club with my students,” the Auto Mechanics Teacher, Spencer Brady, commented without solicitation, “but the Welding Teacher Kaleb Money is always here. When I arrive early, Kaleb’s light is on. When I leave, students are still bustling around his shop. He goes above and beyond the pay.”
Kaleb’s shop was full of students during the visited lunch hour. Several students circled Kaleb enquiring about apprenticeship details and where to acquire cheap parts for their Utah Valley CTE Expo projects, a state event showcasing student projects offering cash prizes and awards. Several students choose to compete in the extracurricular Welding Expo each year, and many walk away, placing in the top ranks, too.
Kaleb’s shop fill with students and their hatchlings over two weeks; there were stock and open-modification drag bikes, drift trikes, go-karts, tractors, steel art, you name it. We asked students to chat about their projects, their “why’s” for welding, and what makes this class unique.
The first student was Kaydee, a Sophomore, who was in the middle of welding the frame for her drag bike. Kaydee watched her older brother weld in an Expo while she was young, and his built-from-scratch bike was so cool that she felt compelled to join the class. Last year, Kaydee made a three-wheeler using hand-me-down parts from a graduated students’ parts; Money mentioned to Kaydee that she could use the pieces he left behind if she built a frame. Kaydee’s bike might have seemed patchwork to an outsider, but she and her bike took fourth at the Expo– and again, she’s a freshman. All of the students know how to build cost-effectively, and their projects stack up well against other Expo attendees.
This year she’s built a lighter bike. “Last year, my bike was for comfort. This year I have my sights on winning. I’ve modified the motor, made a lean frame. I might change the sprocket for speed. I think I have it.”
KenneDee, a Junior, was also introduced to the course by an older sibling. KenneDee’s older sister started the welding class, which sparked familial interest. KenneDee’s dad and sister started welding projects on their family cabin that year, forging a path for KenneDee to pick up basic welding techniques outside of the classroom. KenneDee joined her sister at the Expo two years ago, where her sister took home first-prize in Fabrications after building a steel fire pit. KenneDee’s older sister now works at Intermountain Precision Casting– the welding trade seems embedded in KenneDee’s family due to Kaleb’s course.
KenneDee has competed at the Expo every year she could– COVID closures shut down the Expo her first year, but she and her sister built a go-kart for a tractor pull and drag race last year. Their go-kart slugged heavyweights farther than any other group, taking first in the tractor pull. “We didn’t do well with the drag race last year, but I’ve improved in welding, and I’m better with my time management now,” KenneDee says. “More than anything, I like that I’ve built this bike by myself, with my own two hands. I loved working with my sister, but it was a different experience designing and building my bike. I own this.”
Kaleb’s Welding class attracts many intergenerational students. Grant, a senior, is another student returning to compete at the Expo with family ties to the Provo High Metalworking class. Grant’s older brother similarly enjoyed welding while Grant was initially interested in Woodworking. Grant’s brother built a boot shelf from horseshoes in the Fabrication portion of the welding Expo, spurring Grant to take on the Expo for himself. Grant has since invited a younger cousin to the course and still shows his bike and welds to his friends and church members.
Last year Grant built a bike, but the bike’s construction didn’t go as planned. “The bike was a challenge. Everything that could go wrong did. I bought an old bike from a starter and pulled parts for my frame,” Grant started, “and while I was doing the last pass while cleaning the shock mounts on the lathe, the thing snapped in half. I had to manufacture a new one altogether. It set me back a week.
“Afterwards, my motor didn’t start. I bought the engine from Harbor Freight, and it failed. I ended up replacing the motor. This year I’m a little more cautious, particularly on the lathe. I’m taking my time; my skills are sharper. And as a Senior, I have a lot of free periods. I love welding, so I’m here every day of the week to work on my bike.
“I want this bike to look nice, work well, and hopefully win. As long as people can see the work I’ve done to dial my bike in, I’ll be happy.”
While the Expo is an event looked forward to in Kaleb Money’s Metalworking class, many students use their welding skills in unique and lucrative ways. Evan is one such student. Evan is the oldest in his family and happened onto the Welding course when looking over elective options. Evan practiced the welding basics his first year by working on a project for his family. “That first year, I had a weird project. I built frames for cots for our camp trailer. Lots of basic welds and a lot of measuring to make sure the frames would fit.”
Since then, Evan got into Metalworking software called Torchmate. Evan designs art metal using the software and then uploads the blueprints to a “Plasma Table.” The Plasma Table uses the blueprint to carve sheet metal into specific shapes, cutting the pieces required for Evan’s art metal, which he then takes and welds into his art.
Evan’s work is impressive. He first designed a three-foot-tall Halloween-themed tree with sharp, gnarled features. He’s sold nine of his Halloween trees for sixty dollars apiece– he’s made real money. Evan has since built his mom metal art for Easter, complete with a moving piece of steel. He’s only sold one so far but intends to print more with time.
Evan isn’t the only one who makes Money from his work. One student named Micah saw the Fabrication projects from the Expo, and Micah put his hand to welding. Micah found that he was a natural. Micah now works for Intermountain Lift, where he welds tracks for roller-coasters worldwide; theme parks call in requests to the Intermountain Lift, and Micah has a hand in crafting those tracks. “We’ve built tracks for theme parks across America– even requests from Afghanistan, Thailand, and South Korea. I’d like to see my handiwork at a park someday.”
It was abundantly clear that welding was therapeutic for Micah.
“I can put the welding hood over my face, tune in, relax, and get lost in it. I’m not sure where I go from this job, but I can leverage welding to live any life I want. I’ve thought about building my own fencing company or moving into pipeline welding for oilers. Pipeline welding is for travelers, for people who can get out on the road, and for those who love welding. I love dirt biking, hunting, and outdoor life. I’d be happy to get out there, weld some pipe, and live a free life.”
Several of the students expressed an innate love for welding, and an appreciation in seeing their imagined bikes and trikes come to life.
“Each skill that you learn comes together in a project,” Kaydee answered. “One day welding feels hard, and the next, you’ve got a mini-bike in front of you. It showed me that it’s more than welding a t-joint or a welded line on a plate. It’s a satisfying feeling.”
KenneDee told me that “seeing everything you’ve seen in your head come together as a real bike is incredible. It’s unforgettable.”
Students cycled through paperwork at the end of class, searching for a stamp card. “This card marks off the welding skills taught and passed off and measures the time they’ve spent working on their project,” Money explained. “Welding schools recognize my signature and my pass-off, and it means something to them. Rather than taking the word of a resume, students can present this paperwork for social proof. Welding schools and employers have evidence of their ability. I want to fast-track students into programs and jobs.”
Last of all, students shared what makes their Metalworking class unique, and what they’ve learned from the course.
“I feel like other courses are important, too, but it’s taught differently,” started Kaydee. “You start with lessons and end with a test– and hopefully, the lessons build-up to the test.
“In Metalworking, they start with a test or a project, and then we learn lessons to finish the project. We take the test, and we learn a lesson. It’s learning a way of life, or maybe, it teaches you how to learn for the rest of your life.”
KenneDee commented next. “This course is pretty awesome. We’re fortunate; Kaleb Money is almost more than a teacher. He’s friends with a lot of people for life, and he gets people into jobs.”
“This is fun for me,” said Grant. “I use tools and make cool things. And I like how Kaleb Money helps fix problems– he’s kind of like a kid, so it’s fun to work with him. He takes part in the building process, so it feels like a partnership when you’re working on your project.”
Evan said that “Money is the best teacher I’ve ever had. He’s sort of like a boss– I feel like I’ve received some work experience while in his class. I like that his certification tests also count as work experience– so in a way, it’s like work but more fun. I want to weld while in college for cash.”
“This is what brings me happiness. I can do what I want and build my projects,” Micah commented. “Money knows how to direct a project if you’re serious about welding. He’s helped me a ton. Money is an amazing teacher.”
Kaydee added a final comment. “Inevitably, my motivation is to build things for people,” Kaydee answered. “People probably won’t appreciate the work that goes into the weldings in your home, but I do. I want to build things that I know matter. I can create things that matter.”
Special thanks to Kaleb Money and his students for allowing me to visit during and after several classes. If you’d like to see the work students do in Money’s class, follow @provohighschoolwelding on Instagram. If you’d like to learn more about the Utah Valley CTE Welding Expo, please visit @uv.cte.weld.expo on Instagram.