SAN BERNARDINO — Calipatria High School junior Joshua Balancio and senior Russell Fischer were handed a stack of heavy metal plates, a small piece of a metal pipe, a blueprint and a booth number.
"Skills Olympics" officials here told the competitors they only had one hour to weld the pieces together according to the diagram on the blueprint.
The teens hustled as they tried to find and get to their respective welding booths. Once there, Joshua and Russell flipped down the shields of their hoods.
Sparks started flying.
Meanwhile, all around them kids from big city high schools were welding together their own plates.
Russell remembers noting that some of his competitors had full leathers (expensive welding coats) and $140 hoods that were issued by their school.