At least one student will be awarded $10,000 based on a point system, evaluating their grades, involvement with AWS, volunteer work and other factors. The sum could be divided between up to five students if the candidate pool is strong, said Karen Gilgenbach, weld process specialist at Airgas Inc. in West Allis and one of the scholarship's organizers.
AWS Milwaukee Section has established an endowment to fund the scholarship from proceeds of the National Robotic Arc Welding Conference it holds in Milwaukee every two years. The national AWS organization matched its $79,000 endowment, and the group hopes to raise the total to $200,000 by the end of the year.
The group will use the funds to ensure a permanent annual scholarship, Gilgenbach said.
The award is given in memory of Milwaukee robotics, welding and automation expert John F Hinrichs, who died in June. He was instrumental in starting the conference, said Jeff Noruk, president of Servo-Robot Inc. in Milwaukee and a scholarship organizer.
"John had such a huge impact on us," Gilgenbach said. "I think we all feel very lucky to be in welding and engineering. In part, we wanted to give back and kind of share some of our passion with the younger generation."
The scholarship could go to a high school senior or any community member who plans to attend a technical college or university for a welding related program.
"There's a shortage of skilled people in this field," Noruk said. "(This will) encourage people to go that extra step and give them a little bit of a boost."
The high tech field has gotten a bad rap, leading to fewer students becoming welders, techs, engineers and robotic programmers, he said.
"Robots don't run themselves and you need people behind the scenes," Noruk said. "John's saying always was 'People make the difference.'"
John's saying will be the theme of this year's National Robotic Arc Welding Conference, which is being held June 3 to 5 in Milwaukee.