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2012 SAN ANGELO STOCK SHOW & RODEO: Pitting metal against metal

Cynthia Esparza/Standard-TimesA barbecue pit made by four students in the Celeste FFA is shown during a past Ag Mechanics show at the San Angelo Stock Show  Rodeo. It took eight months to finish the project during class.

Photo by Cynthia Esparza

Cynthia Esparza/Standard-Times
A barbecue pit made by four students in the Celeste FFA is shown during a past Ag Mechanics show at the San Angelo Stock Show Rodeo. It took eight months to finish the project during class.

An uneven trail made of rubber matting from the rear of Christoval High School’s main campus leads to a small garage housing a behemoth of a mobile barbecue pit.

Minus its wheels, the 10-foot-wide barbecue pit occupies a large portion of the small workshop, where the metal fabrication class works on a number of projects. As wide as the pit is, it is almost as tall.

“We’re really worried about getting it out the door,” said Hunter Smith, Christoval High School Future Farmer of America adviser and ag and metal fabrication teacher.

“We cut 6 inches off the smoke stack the other day,” he said. “Actually a pit like that, the bigger around the smoke stack is, the better. You actually want it to be as long as the cooking space for the fire pit to draw correctly. We want to keep that as long as we could.”

The need to feed hungry students and the opportunity to compete is what compelled Christoval High School’s FFA group to enter the barbecue pit as a submission for the Agriculture Mechanics Show at the 2012 San Angelo Stock Show Rodeo. Smith and Larry Sanders, the school’s transportation director, do the majority of the cooking for the school for special events and were limited in how much could be made with the small pit out back.

“We need one with a little bit bigger of a capacity than the one we use now. There are times when we need to cook up to 25 briskets, and this would do the job, no problem,” Smith said.

The barbecue pit, which will compete against other outdoor cooking devices, is the school’s first entry in the Ag Mechanics Show. Besides the barbecue pit group submission, which has six students working during class and even on some weekends, there are two other, individual entries from a student.

Freshman Jake Nanny is entering two projects he has been working on himself at his house — a back bumper for a pickup truck and a hat rack made out of horseshoes. Nanny, an aspiring engineer, said he has been working diligently while documenting his process along the way — something required of all projects for the competition.

The Ag Mechanics Show has 33 competition classes among eight divisions that range from agriculture machinery and equipment to home convenience. The submissions will be on display throughout the San Angelo Stock Show Rodeo and will be judged Feb. 22, with awards distributed Feb. 23. The submissions are judged on the mechanical workings, aesthetics, originality, safety and documentation.

This year, there are 454 submissions, which is about the same as the number of submissions in 2011, said Brittni Kaczyk, livestock director of the San Angelo Stock Show Rodeo.

“The Ag Mechanics Show is something that was a fairly recent addition to the stock show and rodeo — about five years going,” Kaczyk said. “It definitely has picked up over the years. The longer something’s around, typically, the more popular it gets.”

Even though the materials will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $6,500, the barbecue pit will be put to use by Christoval High School for many years, Smith said.

Wall High School’s FFA chapter has entered a 6-foot by 16-foot trailer that cost approximately $2,000 in materials, said Ernie Eckert, ag instructor at Wall High School.

The school decided to make a trailer for the competition because a nearby farmer was in need of a more heavy duty trailer and agreed to buy it from the school after the competition.

“We decided on entering the trailer division because we have this buyer,” Eckert said. “A few years back, we did a project for the Ag Mechanics Show and then it took us a year and a half to sell it. We made the mistake of not having a buyer when we built the livestock feeder, which we thought would be a good build.

“This is our biggest build. Our shop is not very well equipped for making real elaborate type projects. We don’t have all the fancy computer design equipment, and a lot of other bigger schools do. It’s hard to compete with those schools that have computer-assisted welders and plasma cutters when we do everything by hand.”

Wall High School’s workshop is slightly larger than Christoval’s, with more work stations.

Sparks strew the floor and bright bursts of light from welding machines filled the garage at Wall as students worked on individual projects around the shop. In the middle of the shop was the trailer, where the welds were being smoothed out by senior Koy Kellermeier and junior Slaton Holster.

The two teenagers agreed there will be stiff competition from other schools, especially ones that have state-of-the-art equipment. The students, who are each coming from a family of farmers, said they feel they will be better prepared for their future as farmers with what they will take away from their experience through the FFA program and entering in various competitions.

“My father farms, so I’ve learned a lot of stuff from him,” Holster said. “Half of what farming is inventing things. If you don’t know how to invent, then you’re not a good farmer.”

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