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Matt Watson, NextFab’s Metal Processes Manager, has been re-engineering the educational and instructional aspects of the metal shop. His focus on precision, accessibility and relevance to members needs, has built the foundation of the Welding Theory and Application class at NextFab’s Washington Avenue location.

Welder working on a project at NextFab

“The entire course was designed around making things easier for members by sharing some of my knowledge, removing misnomers, and providing the foundation to help them make great projects, more easily and more efficiently. The biggest challenges I faced were: How do I condense a typical 4 year Vo-Tech or full-time welding program into a NextFab members needs? What is relevant and helpful to the majority of the members? How do I not make this a Ben Stein style lecture? Much of this I relate to Paul Roe in his assistance in my visual formatting for the presentation,” says Watson.

Welder working on a project at NextFab makerspace

Watson has deep experience in welding and fabrication, having started down that path while attending a Vo-Tech High School, where he learned and became a certified welder by the American Welding Society. He Co-oped during school, fabricating for a company that made custom government vehicles such as, S.W.A.T./E.O.D., Prisoner Transport Vans,and Fire Dept Special Response vehicles. His highly technical fabrication and inspection work continued, when he joined a local Boilermaker’s Union under a sub-contractor. There he gained X-Ray certification on Pressure Vessels in exotic alloys, while welding Nuclear Condensers for the US Navy’s Submarines and Aircraft Carriers. He eventually ended up working in the Philadelphia Navy Yard for a green air-conditioning start up, building and designing prototypes. That led to a NextFab membership and courses in Solidworks and Laser Cutting and in 2014, Watson joined the staff.

Welding project at NextFab

Paul Roe, Manager of Education Services adds, “This is a logical extension of NF class offerings and a preview of courses to come. We are consciously moving beyond skills training. We want members to gain understanding of all the activities and requirements behind operating the equipment here that they have access to. This understanding will help inform decisions that a potential business owner will be making about their business processes in production, supply chain, materials, and many other aspects of manufacturing.”

Watson further explains, “The Welding Theory and Application Course is something I have wanted to offer since I was a member. The course has substantially evolved to reflect some of the most common FAQ’s and ‘good to know’ tips and tricks I have learned over my 15+ years in metalworking and time at NextFab. The Metal Shop Safety and Material Prep and Layout classes have been customized by me over the past year, to feed into the Welding Theory course and support the ever-evolving and expanding metalworking programs.”

The goals of  Watson’s lecture style format are to generally better prepare and inform members looking to learn welding by:

  • Defining what “welding” is
  • Standardizing safety knowledge and requirements
  • Covering the “need to know” before member’s strike an arc
  • Providing industry standard terminology and nomenclature for communication and understanding, inside and outside NextFab
  • Providing welding process selection knowledge (Mig vs Tig)
  • Illustrating material preparation, fabrication and welding techniques/tips through the elimination of variables
  • Establishing a better understanding of “what is going on” when welding
  • Examining how to control distortion while welding and using it to your advantage
  • Exploring different metals and guiding in their selection
  • Considering design and fabrication options for projects
  • Sharing subject relevant “geeky” information
  • Identifying weld defects and their common causes
  • Opening a forum for participants to ask questions about their project ideas and strategy or items not covered

NextFab member Marek Loder participated in the class and enthuses, “Matt is an incredibly professional and knowledgeable guy. He has a quiet confidence that leaves you feeling like you are learning from someone who really ‘knows his [stuff].’ Matt did a great job complementing the science behind welding with personal stories of projects that he worked on along the way – from welding submarines to SEPTA trains.”

This level of staff expertise and educational process is invaluable to members who want to progress beyond abasic function level of understanding of machines and processes.