On fire for welding

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Itz’s projects paving way for his future

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The air surrounding Stonewall local Kaiden Itz is littered with sparks. Itz, having just graduated from Fredericksburg High School, has traded in his welding gear for a cap and gown.

Picking up a welding torch for the first time at age 12, Itz has traveled across Texas showing his creations in a series of ag mechanics competitions.

His plan book ranges from small scale projects like welding and barbecue trailers to his grand champion award-winning, 32-foot cattle trailer.

“Since we raise a lot of cattle, I told my dad I wanted to build a cattle trailer,” Itz said.

Beginning with a flatbed trailer in Caleb Elrod’s welding classes in high school, Itz set his determination aflame.

“When I was a freshman, I started building projects,” Itz said. “My dad, grandpa and uncle had built flatbeds, so I built a flatbed as my first project.”

Elrod’s classes are centered around applying the project-driven curriculum to the rapidly growing industry.

“I want students to have the ability to learn how to have a career,” Elrod said.

Pairing up with the family owned business, Itz Electric, Itz raised funds, set a specific timeline and independently drew the plans of what would be his champion project.

“The next step was to build a cattle trailer,” Itz said. “That way, I have my own and don’t have to pay for one later on.”

Venturing to Gillespie Livestock Company every Wednesday afternoon, Itz gathered intel and opinions from ranchers and farmers on their favorite trailer features, improving his own design with the help of experienced users of his soon-to-be product.

After eight and a half months of working on plans, a work log book, detailed with 48 construction photos, and more than 450 hours spent working, Itz completed his project.

With the help of Elrod and the Fredericksburg chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA), Itz began travelling throughout Texas, entering his exhibit of hard work in stock show and rodeo competitions.

“[Itz] saw it as an engineering project in the beginning, and he learned to go back to the drawing board,” Elrod said. “I think that’s what made him a better person and welder. He logged so many hours, and you could really see his progress.”

Entered in six competitions from Kingsville to San Angelo, Itz received over five awards and multiple prizes, including various tools like welding grinders and torches, jackets, gloves and a $10,000 scholarship at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.

“Ag mechanics has taught me work ethic, responsibility and book keeping through these projects,” Itz said. “I like going to these shows because you get to relax a little bit. And if you win, you win, and if you don’t, you go to the next show.”

Itz is headed to Texas Tech University in the fall to study ag business.