More MS news articles for June 2001

Welding students fight back against MS

Project involves design, building, marketing items to raise money

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Last Updated: Friday, June 01st, 2001 11:57:34 AM
Maria Lockwood
The Daily Telegram

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has become more than a name for welding students at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. The debilitating disease has touched them, and they are fighting back.

"It's a devastating disease," said Dan Maynard, who retired as WITC welding instructor last spring after 27 years of teaching.

"You don't realize it until it happens to one of your friends," said George West, a welding student. "I'll be 29. My best friend is 28 and he has MS." One of his mother's friends also has MS. Each has different symptoms, West said, but both suffer.

MS is a chronic disease that randomly attacks the central nervous system. The progress, severity and symptoms of the disease are unpredictable; symptoms may range from tingling and numbness to paralysis and blindness. While there are medications available to help with symptoms and slow the progress of the disease, there is no cure.

Approximately 300,000 Americans suffer from MS. Every week, about 200 people are diagnosed with the disease -- more than one person per hour.

Last spring Maynard began a project aimed at raising money for the National MS Society, money that will fund research for a cure. His students sold metal letter-holders they crafted themselves. The project had special meaning for them because Maynard was diagnosed with MS last year.

This spring John Palmer, WITC's new welding instructor, continued where Maynard left off. His students raised $1,000 for the MS Society by selling tables decorated with metal trees, leaves and the silhouettes of animals -- from bears to cows.

"I knew there was something in the wind," said Maynard, who visits the class periodically. "To my surprise they raised a ton of money. They carried the torch we started last year."

"Yeah, the guys did well," said Palmer with a smile.

Along with raising money, the project was a learning experience in production techniques.

"The whole project really simulated industry, from design phase to construction to marketing," said Palmer. The students decided on a product and took orders. In one day, they received orders for 57 tables, which sold for $30 a piece.

The production of the tables involved obtaining their own materials, using a CNC (Computer Numeric Control) plasma cutter to cut shapes with, tack welding and quality control management.

"The experience in teamwork to pull the project off was a real bonus," said Palmer. "The guys worked in teams to get things done." They soon realized, he said, that one person not fulfilling their job description can slow down the whole project. However, Palmer said with a smile, "they solved problems internally without instructor intervention."

The project was a success as far as customers were concerned, too. Campus Administrator Jann Brill was more than willing to drive home to get her table, decorated with cows, to show off for the photographer.

"Farm girl that I am," she said," he (Palmer) made it special order." Another student, Isaiah Ziesing, was loading up a table to bring home to his mother.

"They did great," said Josh Reinhart, the student in charge of quality control for the project. "Just a couple pretty minor mistakes, otherwise they were excellent."

Students said they learned the importance of setting up a job -- making sure everything is square, level and straight before beginning. They also learned they can make a difference.

"If nothing else, I'm happy they experienced giving rather than getting ... and using their skills to do so," said Palmer.

"I think it's really cool that we could give back," said Ziesing.

"It's a beautiful thing," said West.

"I'm just overwhelmed; I'm very pleased," said Maynard. "I hope they find a cure for this thing."

For more information about MS, look up the National MS Society on the web: http://www.nmss.org/ .