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Female students are first to use Denfeld's new welding equipment

Duluth Denfeld High School student Clarissa Smith, 17, welds at the Denfeld High School fabrication lab on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (Clint Austin /

Six female students are the first students to use Duluth Denfeld High School's new welding equipment.

The hope of the school's tech tutor working with that group is that a statement like that won't always be unusual.

"Women are not represented well in the tech field of fabrication, welding and computer-aided design," and that needs to change, said Roxane Simenson, who is helming an after-school welding program for the girls, who received Ann Bancroft Foundation grants to be a part of it.

The welding station is inside the school's new fabrication lab, which officially opened this month. The lab, or design center, allows students in engineering and graphic design classes to make things by designing on computers, prototyping via 3D printing and building them using a variety of machines and tools.

Denfeld student Clarissa Smith, 17, of Duluth, prepares to weld at the fabrication lab. (Clint Austin / News Tribune)One of the six, senior Clarissa Smith, has been welding for two years, learning through a Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College camp. But she's been around it her whole life, coming from a family of welders in whose footsteps she plans to follow. She was surprised the school offers the chance to begin learning the skill.

"There are not that many kids around here who are into this stuff. I just love it," she said.

Simenson said the high school experience might erase some of the intimidation factor for those pursuing post-secondary welding education, where women are in the minority.

She said welding education isn't just for those entering that specific profession.

Employers seeking engineers often want candidates with welding and fabricating experience, or at least the knowledge of "what a good quality weld looks like" for inspections, for example, Simenson said.

Sophomore Jillian Beetcher, a welding beginner, is already considering a career in that area.

"They pay very well," she said.


Sparking success: New career, tech offerings in Duluth aimed at helping students, local industries