A group from a Boy Scout troop in Greenwood got first-hand knowledge of metalworking while working on their merit badges in welding during a Saturday morning spent on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus.

UAFS welding instructor Jason Keyes, also of Greenwood, instructed the 12 young men as they pursued their badges. The group taught by Keyes will be the first scouts in Troop 54 to earn this particular badge since it was announced, according to scoutmaster Rod Powell.

"Two new merit badges came out about a year ago nationally," said Powell, "and welding was one of them."

Powell said the troop members earn five or six new badges a year out of the more than 100 which are available.

"We usually focus on ones that are required to reach Eagle Scout rank," said Powell, "which is where we want our scouts to advance. We have some that we offer repeatedly, such as first aid and citizenship."

He also said scouts have an opportunity to earn additional badges while at scout camps each year. When he and his adult leaders were talking about what badges to offer, welding came up as a possibility, and Keyes was contacted to see if he would do the instruction.

Keyes, who said this was the first time he had worked with the Boy Scouts, said he mostly stressed safety when meeting with the boys.

"Safety in the welding industry is very important because you are working with electricity and equipment to cut, bend and grind metal," he said. "But one of the biggest hazards is to the eyes because of the intense arc emitted from a welding arc and from the flying debris from grinding."

In the time before the scouts actually used real welding equipment, Keyes said he discussed personal protection equipment with the group, going over what equipment is needed in a welding shop environment in order to make the scouts aware of anything that can hurt them or someone else.

"If they are welding, or if they are helping build a dog house out of wood, they need to be safe with the tools they are using and use proper personal protection equipment," he added.

Keyes said he had an even bigger goal that just helping the scouts earn their badges.

"I wanted them to walk away with the knowledge to be safe in an industrial environment," he said, "as well as have a better understanding of how the welding process works."

The scouts welded using a MIG welder. MIG, or Metal Inert Gas, welding was developed in the 1940s and allows metal to be welded quickly.

Scouts earning their welding badges included:

Greenwood: Jacob Castle, Michael Doss, Dax Lewis, Xavier Nelson, Jerod Powell, Shane Powell, Trent Powell, Jacob Smith and Mark Thiele.

Pocola: Colton Nichols.

Van Buren: Cody Nichols and Dylan Nichols.

Troop 54 is part of the Butterfield District of the Westark Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The Butterfield District includes Crawford, Sebastian, Franklin, Scott and Western Logan counties.