ESAB Donates $511,000 in Welding and Cutting Equipment To Agricultural Mechanics Student Contest at Houston Rodeo

March 2024

Through its Future Fabricators program, ESAB has donated welding and cutting equipment with a retail value of $511,000 awarded today as part of the prize packages for winning competitors of the Agriculture Mechanics competition at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, held at the NRG Center in Houston. More than 500 projects, including trailers, truck beds, gates, hay haulers, log splitters tractors and more, were submitted by 1,500 high school FFA and 4-H students from more than 250 Texas school districts.

Tucker Soules of the Hallsville, Texas FFA chapter was named Grand Champion of Show for fabricating a hydraulic arm truck bed that is made for moving two round bales of hay at time. The prize package included an ESAB Ruffian ES 150G EDW engine driven welding generator, an ESAB Rebel multi-process welder, Victor oxy-fuel equipment, a plasma cutter, TIG and MIG welders and welding helmets.

“The support that I’m receiving here now is going to help me grow. I plan to make a business one day as far as building beds and custom fabrication,” says Soules, a 17-year-old-junior who invested about 425 hours to build the bed himself. He will put it on his 2016 F250 truck for delivering hay as part of the family’s cow/calf and hay operation.

The Agricultural Mechanics team from West Hardin, Texas was named Reserve Champion of Show for its 40-ft. long deck over trailer for hauling school buses that break down and metal for the Agricultural Mechanics program. The school won a prize package that featured a ESAB Warrior 400i MV CC/CV heavy industrial multi-process welder, MIG and TIG welders and oxy-fuel cutting equipment. The school used an ESAB Rebel to MIG and Stick weld portions of the trailer. 

“We’re teaching life lessons that go way beyond a welding curriculum so we can make sure students can obtain a job in industry and climb that corporate ladder to become project managers, engineers and more,” says West Hardin advisor James Merrifield.

“ESAB supports the Agricultural Mechanic’s mission of equipping students with the knowledge, skills, teamwork and safety awareness required to pursue a manufacturing career or keep an agricultural operation running smoothly,” says Eleanor Lukens, ESAB President of the Americas. “Events like the ones at the Houston Rodeo show how industries can come together to support future generations, and the projects showcased demonstrated that the future is in the good hands of some very talented students.”

“The way that the industry supports the program doesn't just last until the end of the life of the tools they donate. It lasts for the lifetime of these students,” adds Dr. Curtis Langley, current Superintendent of the Agricultural Mechanics competition, Assistant Professor at Tarleton State University and Owner of Langley Metal Works. “By supporting these kids at a young age, they can continue to build those skills throughout their young adult life and have the skills and the abilities manufacturers want, not just for technical work, but in sales, engineering and more.”

Kirby, co-owner of AllTex Welding Supply and past Superintendent of the Agricultural Mechanics event, says that Houston is the largest welding market in the country with significant welding career opportunities in energy production and distribution markets.

If you could see the fancy trailers and equipment these kids build, you’ll see the future is bright for the welders and fabricators in the state of Texas,” says Kirby.