There are plenty of reasons young people might be interested in welding, but 17-year-old Alexandria Dixon wants to help make the planet a better place to live.
"I hope to do green technology at Universal Technical Institute in Sacramento and get in a diesel auto program," Dixon said Saturday. "I want to specialize in converting diesel trucks into having a carbon filter that puts out clean air."
Dixon was one of 21 competitors at Western Nevada College Saturday competing in the Northern Regional Welding Contest for SkillsUSA.
SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled work force, according to its website.
Mike Pointer, interim state director for SkillsUSA Nevada said 130 competitions were taking place over the state Saturday for students hoping for a chance to compete in the state contest in Las Vegas March 15-17. That's where 850 students will compete in 50 leadership and technical skills contests.
"Automotive courses are so popular in the schools that we have to offer these regional contests to high school and college kids. A lot are enrolled in car and technology education classes," Pointer said.
High school junior and senior students from eight Northern Nevada schools competed Saturday in WNC's welding facility in four categories, said instructor Randy Naylor. They were: written exam, shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding and oxygen acetylene cutting.
Dixon, of North Valleys High School, said she took a semester of metals and construction when she was a sophomore.
"I ended up falling in love with welding because I could cut thick metals with little bit of heat and practice," she said.
After she invents a carbon filter for diesel trucks, however, she said she will study to be a green architect.
"I love it, and I'd have so much fun with in-the-field-type jobs. You get to learn to read blueprints and do the correct weld or cut or whatever it may be," Dixon said. "We're all here today because we like it and we were chosen by our teachers to go, and we want to be the best."
For Carson High School junior Jake Williamson, it also is an enjoyable skill.
"Last year, I took auto technology, and I liked welding in middle school, but I'm a musician, so if that doesn't work out, I can do welding, because I like it just as much," Williamson said. "I worked on a ranch for awhile and learned that just about everything needs welding."
Naylor said all seven of the judges at Saturday's event were locals who were volunteering their time.
"I just think it's great to be a part of this," said another of the welding instructors, Larry Wilson. "You get to be a part of it, and you get to learn, and it's a family thing to help kids."