ROCKLAND—Take a walk through the cavernous welding/fabrication shop at the newly built Midcoast School of Technology and you’ll be surrounded by industrial machines, tools, workbenches, and vices. For some students, it might be intimidating. But 17-year-old Mikayla Tolman feels right at home.
The senior at Zenith Alternative School takes a welding class at Midcoast School of Technology every other day and is one of two female students in the welding/fabrication program.
“When I first walked in, I got excited, but also really nervous about how to use all of this equipment,” she said of her first day in the shop. “Growing up, I hung around girls more, but I’ve gotten close to the guys in this class; they’re my buddies.”
Mikayla’s father works at a tractor company and, inspired by that, she took her first welding class at Camden Hills Regional High School as a freshman.
“My instructor was female and she showed me all I needed to know in using the equipment and tools,” she said. “After that, I’d go to where my dad works and find all of these scrap metals and parts I could weld into something.”
Her investment in Industrial Arts has become just that—industrial art. The school featured her miniature logging truck sculpture on its Facebook page.
It took a couple of weeks working on the CNC table, using sheet metal for the truck cab, rebar for the logs, and bearings and nuts for the wheels. “I actually didn’t know it was going to come out as decent as it did,” she said, adding that her dad told her he was pretty impressed with this piece.
The truck sculpture wasn’t a class project; it just was what Mikayla felt like making.
“As long as we’re welding, with our minds on our work, we’re pretty free to make anything,” she said.
Mikayla said she gets inspired with new projects through the image sharing website, Pinterest and from a rising star female metalworker artist she follows on social media named Rae Ripple. “She makes these awesome swings and she plasma cut this entire truck,” she said.
When she’s not at school, she likes to unwind in the outdoors, visiting farm animals, and going four-wheeling.
When Mikayla graduates, she’s got plans for her future in mind.
“When we can travel again, the first places I’d want to go to is to Niagara Falls and the Iowa 80 Truck Stop,” she said.
A quick Google search discovered why she’s so enamored by The Iowa 80 Truck Stop, based in Walcott, Iowa, as it happens to boasts the world’s largest truck stop.
“I’m hopefully going to start my own fabrication business someday,” she said. “I’d love to make things out of metal, like horseshoes and rebar and turn them into gifts and things people can use in their home.”
In her senior year, the pandemic is still making future plans uncertain.
“I never expected my senior year to be like this,” she said. “Isn’t senior year supposed to be your best year?”
Creating art is a way for her to disengage.
“I try to get away from all of the other stuff,” she admitted. “It’s not hard work, like homework, but it’s creative and you can make what you want.”
Hail To The Rad Kids is an ongoing feature highlighting teens in the Midcoast with special talent.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org