The GRT welding subgroup is responsible for welding the base and other components, depending on the robot design each year. Members are taught TIG welding, and most of our parts are aluminum (although we work with steel and other materials as well). Creativity and patience are key values, as the welders figure out ideal clamping positions, welding angles, and strategies for retaining a perfectly square base. With the hazards that welding presents, members are required to always have a buddy in the welding room, adding to the synergistic environment of the subgroup.
With the bulk of our work in the beginning of build season, members are often free to join and explore other robot tasks; many enjoy machining or building bumpers, which work well into the end of the season.
Welding rookies are not expected to have previous knowledge about welding, and typically sign up for one-on-one training sessions with the welding lead in late fall and early winter. Other curious team members can also learn to weld, although training time is prioritized towards those who are eager and committed to joining the subgroup. Before officially joining the subgroup, recruits must first pass the welding safety test — a relatively simple assessment on the basic skills and safety rules they learned during their training.
A welding member performs a TIG weld.
With shop projects occurring during and after the training period, rookies may have a chance to put their training to practice on shop projects robots; this is, however, contingent on the robot design, their skill and comfort level. Generally, a welding rookie's first official welded part will be during build season.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a period of time where no one was able to be trained in or consistently practicing welding, and thus a lot of knowledge and skills were lost. The tight proximity of the welding room and the hands-on nature of welding made it impossible to teach, and virtual lessons and videos — although incredibly insightful — are no substitute for practice. However, this past year the subgroup slowly started to rebuild by reaching out to old welding leads, and has thankfully regained much of its expertise.