Before the fall semester was to start, Dillon Bell was in a little bit of a rush.
The second-year welding instructor at North Central Kansas Technical College in Hays was in the midst of transitioning from one building to another on the Fort Hays State University campus. In August, the welding department moved out of Davis Hall and into the new Center for Applied Technology.
NCK Tech has a partnership with Fort Hays, in which the two-year college has the privilege of its welding department housed on the larger campus.
With the center — which is home to all the industrial technology, technology, engineering education and soon the sculpture/art studio — completed in August, Bell had to be moved in a hurry to be somewhat settled in his department’s area. The Applied Technology building is 58,000 square feet.
“We really enjoy our partnership with Fort Hays,” Bell said. “They do a really good job of accommodating us. It’s really nice because we have that second-year program where (students) can get an associate's degree. For my students here on the Hays campus, they’re already here and familiar with the instructors here in the technology department. When they go on for their associate's, it’s a real easy transition for them. They’re already in the flow of things.”
Now, while Bell gets everyone settled into the new state-of-the-art facility, across the street on the Fort Hays campus where the welding department was located in Davis Hall, the old building is being torn down.
Moving into a new home always takes adjustments to the surroundings, and Bell has certainly found that to be true. However, with most of the equipment the same and a year of teaching under his belt, he is becoming more acclimated.
“I really enjoy it,” Bell said of being a welding instructor after he was a welding inspector at Hess Services. “Of course, these first couple years have been rough. Your first year is always suppose to be rough, but we’ve had to get used to being in a new place this year. So I’ve had the pleasure of having two first years. It will be really nice. By the end of the year, everything is going to be the way that I want it. Starting next year, everything should go really, really fluid.”
Comparative to the room the welding department had in Davis Hall, there have been some issues of just getting used to the new place. It’s nothing, though, Bell has seen that slows the progression of students getting familiar with it.
“Anytime you make a move into a new building, there’s going to be growing pains,” Bell said. “We’ve found a few of them, but we haven’t let any of them slow us down. We’ve been able to get through everything and still keep everybody on track where we need to be.”
A graduate of NCK Tech himself in the welding department, Bell has approximately 30 students in the program. With a wide range of the student base from experience with welding to no experience, Bell feels good where they are in keeping the department up to date and the progression the students make. Before being able to work in the shop area, which has individual workstations, students must pass a safety exam with a 100 percent. Bell said the students have been good with the exam, and about half of them pass it with a 100 the first time. The others haven’t had much trouble following on the second try.
“It’s usually just a couple questions where they misread it or they didn’t sit there and think it through long enough,” he said of the safety exam.
With being in a new place that is technologically advanced from where they were, the welding department has a nice showcase for students who visit. Bell already has been able to show the place to educators from around the state at Educators Day.
Today, NCK Tech is hosting its Showcase Day, which gives the welding department the chance to give nearly 100 high schools a hands-on look at the program and the new home.