When General McLane High School junior Isabella Beason opted to take an Independent Study last spring, she hoped to find a project that would align with her interest in art.
Although a technology education focus did not seem like an obvious fit, Beason wanted to create a practical piece of art, so she used her independent study to expand her knowledge of metals. During the six-week program, Beason manufactured a lamp resembling an octopus, made completely of metal and an Edison light bulb.
Her creation, Octolampus, placed third nationally in the James F. Lincoln Foundation (JFLF) Arc Welding Foundation’s 2018 Welding Awards Competition.
“I can’t express in words the feeling of a student taking their vision and possessing the determination and will to see their vision come alive,” said General McLane High School Technology Education teacher Timothy Snair, who supervised this project. “Placing so well in this competition proves hard work does pay off, and I couldn’t be more proud of Isabella.”
JFLF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the field of arc welding through education. Each year, the JFLF’s Welding Awards Program rewards excellence and inspires advancement in the field.
Students compete among students in their region. To advance to the national level, Beason first competed regionally with students from 17 different states and territories, including: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Washington D.C.
Beason purchased the light bulb from a flea market and then designed the remainder of the lamp with metals. For the arms, Beason welded different steels together. Three of the eight limbs were created using 3/4’” hot rolled round steel and serve as a tripod to support the lamp. The other five were created using a 16-gauge steel sheet and are used for artistic purposes.
“I like making art more than anything, so I wanted to make something that was more artistic than functional,” Beason said. “I had previously designed a bee inside of a sun during class, but I knew I wanted to do something bigger that could be used for a functional purpose, as well.”
In all, Beason used 17 different tools from the technology education department for the project. Prior to this independent study, the only technology education classes Beason had taken included Intro to Metal Materials and Home Maintenance. General McLane offers 16 technology education classes.
“It’s the most ambitious thing I’ve ever done,” Beason said. “Prior to last year, I had never worked with metal or welding. These were all machines and tools that were new to me, so it was extremely intimidating. But I had a ton of support from all of the tech ed teachers at General McLane and was determined to go back and keep learning.”
General McLane School District made a long-term commitment to both the practical arts and technology. In 1991, the District engaged in a long discussion on whether or not to invest in maintenance and update equipment for both the metal and woodshop as districts prepared students for a technology-based age.
“Schools were getting rid of welding and woodshop in their schools, but we said no. It’s still an art, and it’s one that is even more vital now for our students than ever before,” said superintendent Richard Scaletta. “We want to meet the needs of all students and General McLane has some students who relate better to doing work with their hands.”
Instead, General McLane expanded its traditional shop room. Now, in addition to the machine lathes, welders and saws, General McLane’s technology education rooms also have 3-D printers, computer-aided design and more – focusing on both the traditional shop programs, as well as expanding its programming to include advanced technologies.
“Our tech ed department is sandbox for creativity and innovation, as well as practical application,” Scaletta said. “One of our successes has been that we have been fortunate enough to find teachers that are good at both – technology and the traditional, hands-on vocations. We are also fortunate that the district has made a commitment to maintain and update equipment in both areas.”
For Beason, she learned about the creativity side of technology education first-hand. When Beason first took the Introduction to Metals class, she never thought she’d be able to apply it to art.
“Tech ed always makes you think of computers and stuff. So, this being classified as a technology education class, I didn’t think I would be making art, especially after taking home maintenance before,” said Beason, who added that she was drawn to the idea of being able to create something that was both aesthetically pleasing and functional.
According to Beason, creating the webbing between each arm was the most time-consuming part of the process. This involved manipulating steel sheet metal through welding in order to make the octopus look as natural as possible.
“It was a lot of fun, but it was challenging because of all the details involved,” she said.
Beason likes to create artwork using animals because, outside of art, Beason’s passion lies in the outdoors. She volunteers at the Erie Zoo, and, this past summer, she was accepted to work for the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps’ summer program, working on a variety of outdoor conservation projects.
Although she’s undecided on what she wants to do after school, for now, she’s moved on to her next project.
“I’ve never really done art for show, but now I know that not only can I do that, but it’s something I’m good at,” she said. “Creating this piece has in inspired me to keep creating more.”
General McLane School District serves students in kindergarten through twelfth grade in Franklin, McKean and Washington Townships, as well as the borough of McKean and Edinboro. The District also serves tuition students throughout Erie County.
To learn more about General McLane School District, visit generalmclane.org.