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OHS student's welding torch makes for bright future

OHS senior Michelle Vought’s welding skills helped create a child’s pedal car (see below) that won a competition and was featured at Autorama. Photo by C.J. Carrnacchio. (click for larger version)
March 20, 2013 - Michelle Vought is lighting the path to her future with a welding torch.

The Oxford High School senior's prowess with fire and metal helped her and her fellow students from Oakland Schools Technical Campus (OSTC) Northeast in Pontiac earn a first place award for a child's pedal car they created as part of the Genuine Hotrod Hardware Pedal Car Challenge.

"I did the welding on the frame and some of the welding on the body," said Vought, who's a student in Auto Technology 3 (theadvanced class) at OHS.

The car was displayed at Cobo Hall during Meguiar's Detroit Autorama March 8-10.

The Pedal Car Challenge is a contest open to high school and trade school students.

Genuine Hotrod Hardware supplies replica pedal cars to each team. It's up to the students to modify their vehicle's appearance for the contest.

"We had to make them unique – design them how we thought they should look," Vought said. "We didn't use the body and seat that came stock with it. We made our own from scratch out of aluminum and then we extended the frame (by) 6 inches."

The finished cars are judged based on creativity, craftsmanship, overall appearance and attention to detail. After judging, they're auctioned off with the proceeds going to each school's automotive program.

The OSTC Northeast car fetched $525 at the auction. Vought said the money will most likely be split between the welding and auto body programs, which worked together to create this sporty little race car in about a month's time.

"A lot of people said it was pretty sweet," she said.

Vought took an interest in welding during her automotive classes at OHS.

"I started welding to earn points for the class and I loved it," she said.

Vought enjoyed how "easily it came to me" and how "natural" the torch felt in her hand.

"Not a lot of people can do it. It felt nice," she said.

But welding isn't just a class for Vought. She's building her future around the skill.

"In August, I'm going to Ohio Technical College (to study) welding technology," she said. After college, Vought plans to start out as an industrial welder.

"Someday I hope to own my own shop, doing (automotive) welding and fabrication, building cars, chassis and stuff," she noted.

Being a woman in a male-dominated field hasn't been much of a challenge for Vought

"A lot of the guys just treat me like one of them, so it's not that different, which is nice," she said.

It was Vought's father, Michael, who inspired her to get involved in the automotive classes at OHS, starting with auto repair during her freshman year. Before he passed away last June, he'd worked as an auto mechanic and a truck driver.

"Hearing about the stuff that he did was interesting to me," Vought said.

She indicated that at first, her father was "surprised" she took such an interest in automotive technology and welding.

"But after a while, he talked to me about it all the time and tried to help me with whatever he could," Vought said. "It definitely made us closer than we were before."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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