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Penn College Welding Student Saves Tractor Pull

Robert S. Barnes is a self-described perfectionist. The welding student at Pennsylvania College of Technology says he strives to make the next bead better than the last until it’s perfect.

The result of one of his recent welds was perfect. So was his timing. Barnes employed his skills to ensure the continuation of a tractor and truck pull competition during Heritage Days at Antes Fort. Thanks to his effort, participants and a couple thousand spectators were treated to a complete event with little delay.

“He saved us probably an hour before we could get a trailer in and weld the broken piece ourselves,” said Dan Wenner, president of Antes Fort Tractor and Truck Pullers Inc. “We still had a couple hours to go in the event.”

The welding skills of Robert S. Barnes, a Penn College student from Montoursville, saved the day for participants and spectators at a recent tractor pull event in the area. (Photo by J.J. Boettcher, student photographer)
The welding skills of Robert S. Barnes, a Penn College student from Montoursville, saved the day for participants and spectators at a recent tractor pull event in the area. (Photo by J.J. Boettcher, student photographer)

A broken, 2-inch-long metal attachment on the tractor that returns the sled to the starting point before each pull threatened the last third of the competition. With a long wait looming, Barnes went from avid spectator to unassuming savior.

“I turned to my buddies and asked them, ‘Should I tell them that I can weld it?’ They were like, ‘Yeah, go do it!’ The entire time my stomach was in butterflies,” Barnes said. “I kept thinking, ‘What if it doesn’t work?’”

Experience and education helped Barnes overcome his stage fright.

Growing up, the Montoursville native enjoyed welding in metal shop and with his father, whose job requires aluminum welding. Barnes enrolled in the welding technology associate-degree major at Penn College, where his love for the trade quickly became evident.

“Robby eats, sleeps and breathes welding,” said Ryan P. Good, a welding instructor at the college. “He is a true representation of what it means to be dedicated to a trade. As an instructor, very few things bring me more pride than seeing students take ownership of the trade and their skills.”

Barnes’ ownership of a Lincoln SA-200 welding machine embedded in his truck allowed him to put his skills to work at the Antes Fort event. The SA-200 is a common unit, used primarily for stick welding in various industries. Or in Barnes’ case, on-the-spot “emergency” jobs at a tractor and truck pull.

“I went and got my truck, and they pulled the broken piece off the tractor for me. I was never so scared to make a weld in my life with all those people watching me,” he said. “I thought, ‘It won’t be good if I screw this up.’”

He didn’t.

“I ground out where the piece had cracked and filled the holes and covered it up. It took about 15 minutes,” he said. “I knew the weld was solid, but I didn’t know how old the metal was that I welded. With as much heat as I put into it, it could have made the area around the weld crack. When it was used to hook up to the sled the first time after I welded, I was like, ‘Oh God, don’t break.’”

The weld held, to Barnes’ relief and to the delight of Wenner and the spectators.

“He did a great job,” Wenner said. “He seems like a nice guy. I asked him what we owed him for his services and he said, ‘Nothing.’”

For Barnes, the continuation of the event served as a just reward.

“I was there to watch the pulls, and if I wouldn’t have done it, I couldn’t have kept watching,” he said matter-of-factly.

Barnes is scheduled to graduate in May and hopes to work as a pipe welder. His instructor anticipates a successful career.

“He is ready, willing and able to make the sacrifices necessary to develop the skills and confidence required to be titled a ‘welder,’” Good said. “Robby doesn’t just run around with a generator in the back of his truck for show. When he parks that truck in his driveway after class, he unwinds the leads and practices on the pipe that he scavenged in an effort to accomplish his goal: being the best welder he can be.”

In Barnes’ case, practice does indeed make perfect.

For more about welding majors and other programs offered by Penn College’s School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development. Email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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