New waste receptacles in downtown Waukon meet needs for the City of Waukon while providing relevant learning experience for Allamakee Welding Academy students

This treasure is for trash ... Pictured above is one of the new waste receptacles created by Waukon High School students under the direction of Industrial Technology instructor Caleb Ferring during the 2019-2020 school year. Ten such receptacles have been placed throughout Waukon’s downtown community and were the result of a community enhancement project included within the curriculum of the new Allamakee Welding Academy under Ferring’s guidance. Submitted photo.

Real-life learning experience ... Waukon High School students accepted into the Allamakee Welding Academy under the instruction of Caleb Ferring were instrumental in all aspects of creating the new waste receptacles recently placed throughout the downtown community in Waukon. From creating the initial design and an initial proposal to present to the Waukon City Council for consideration, to cutting all the necessary pieces and the decorative designs into those pieces, to welding all those pieces together to create the final product, the students (some of whom are pictured in surrounding photos above and below) not only helped out the community that houses their high school but also gained some real-life experience in seeing the project through from its conception to the finished product. Submitted photos.

by Joe Moses

The town of Waukon has seen several improvements to its downtown business district recently. Among those is the 2019 Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) Street and Sidewalk Project, which prompted the replacement of the previous waste receptacles placed in the downtown area following the installation of new decorative light poles.

In conjunction with that project, Director Ardie Kuhse with Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) approached the Waukon City Council with a suggestion to replace the previous waste receptacles that became obsolete with the newly installed decorative light poles now in place downtown.

Kuhse presented several concepts and estimates from a variety of manufacturers to the council. With the City of Waukon on board, Kuhse worked with Street Superintendent Keith Burrett on the style and design that would be both attractive and practical for the street department crew to maintain and empty.

At the end of August 2019 as discussion of the project continued, council member Gayle Decker provided a recommendation to contact Waukon High School Industrial Technology Instructor Caleb Ferring relating to a potential community project for his Industrial Technology Class that would create the waste receptacles for the downtown community.

Ferring introduced the idea and general design concept to his class with Kuhse’s recommendation that the class create their own design significant to Waukon. Kuhse requested that any waste receptacle design be painted black to match the new decorative light poles and have a powder-coating finish.

This past school year, Ferring implemented a new Allamakee Welding Academy in partnership with Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), with that program including three juniors and 11 senior students from Waukon High School who applied and were accepted into the program. As part of their coursework, the students were able to work on a relevant community project, with the waste receptacle project for the City of Waukon being a great fit for this purpose.

The students developed several different design sketches and voted for their favorite to be used in a proposal and estimate to be presented to the Waukon City Council last fall. With the council’s approval, the students moved forward in developing a prototype which was beneficial in finalizing the design and process necessary for this project involving the fabrication of 10 waste receptacles for downtown Waukon.

During this project, students took turns cutting all the parts for the waste receptacles on the school’s CNC plasma table in three weeks of class time. With the parts cut out, the class had a field trip to Benjegerdes Machine, Inc. in Waukon where parts were bent on a metal bender the business utilizes within its local facility. Students were then able to weld frames for the receptacles created out of one-inch square tubing and attached 14-gauge sheet metal to the outside of the receptacles.

Students were then able to weld together the liners used for hanging trash bags within the receptacles with the lids and hardware fabricated next. The students were then able to remove any welding burs from all metal parts to ensure that there were no sharp edges prior to Kol-Gol Inc. of Waukon painting a powder-coat on each of the receptacles.

Ferring said that he would like to thank Greg Benjegerdes of Benjegerdes Machine and Jeremy Kolsrud of Kol-Gol Inc. for each making appearances as guest speakers for his class and working with the students throughout this process. In thinking of the impact that this project has had on his students, Ferring stated, “The best way for my students to learn is by working on real life, relevant projects like this one. Students can practice welding on scrap metal all day long and it does not have the same learning impact as a real life experience.”

Ferring further explained that the shortened school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic did not allow all of the students to finish their required lab hours for the Welding Academy, but nine of the 14 students volunteered to come back in June to finish their last welding lab hours for their NICC welding certificates to complete the program. In addition, Ferring said that two other students in a separate evening class also completed the NICC welding certificate program in June.

With the project complete and new waste receptacles placed on Main Street and Spring Avenue in downtown Waukon, Kuhse said that she couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome and is proud of the class for its design work and fabrication. Kuhse said that Ferring and his 2019-2020 Industrial Technology Class deserve a great deal of thanks for their work on this project.

“What a contribution and conversation topic these are to our downtown,” Kuhse summarized. “Now, instead of me visiting other cities for ideas, other cities will most likely look to model Waukon’s project someday.”

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