AWS Poster Competition Tests Skills Employers Need

Based on “Get Your Thinking Caps on for the AWS Poster Competition” written by Katie Pacheco and published in the August 2017 edition of the Welding Journal

AWS competitions often involve flying sparks and the crackling sound of welding. The AWS Poster Competition is different. It’s designed to test a welder’s ability to investigate, think creatively, and communicate effectively; skills that employers say are often lacking in their job candidates. According to Thomas Lienert, AWS vice president and chair of the Technical Papers Committee, welders should possess the ability to work with others and present information in a clear and legible manner. “Welders think they just need to know how to weld. I tell them their wrong,” explained Lienert. What if your boss asks you to justify purchases and give a presentation? If you don’t have strong communication skills, you may not get the tools you need.”

Genevieve Lee, who competed in 2016, agrees. “Wining second-place has given me great talking points for job interviews,” she said. The increased confidence and welding-related knowledge that many competitors take away with them also go a long way in improving their future career prospects. “The award was a real confidence booster,” said Nathan Switzner, who received an honorable mention in the undergraduate competition two years back. “The process of preparing the poster itself helped me crystallize and refine my thoughts about the concepts involved in solid-state joining research.” For Amanda Dubrule, research reinforced a desire to become a permanent part of the welding industry. “Being involved in the work leading up to the competition has strengthened my relationship with the welding research community and helped increase my interest in continuing to be part of that community,” said the first-place winner in the professional category for 2015. “It has also furthered my interest in welding as a career option.

The knowledge and skills associated with the AWS Poster Competition are in such high demand that several schools include it in their curriculum. For example, The Ohio State University and the Colorado School of Mines use the competition as a capstone project for graduating students.

To the Victor Goes the Spoils

As you can tell by now, the competition has plenty of long-term benefits. Of course, some instant cash never hurts either. First-place winners receive $750, second-place winners receive $500, and third-place winners receive $300. First-, second-, and third-place winners also have their posters displayed at the annual FABTECH show. This year, the winning posters will be showcased Nov 11-14 at McCormick Place, Chicago, Ill.

Rules and Guidelines

The competition is designed to advance the science, technology, and application of welding and allied joining and cutting processes through a poster-length communication of investigative work undertaken to address a technical challenge.

The competition is split into five categories in order of ascending difficulty:

  • Category A: high school students
  • Category B: student in a two-year college or certificate program
  • Category C: undergraduate students
  • Category D: graduate students
  • Category E: professionals

Judges consider the competitor’s education and experience when evaluating a poster. For example, Category A participants are expected to demonstrate a clear understanding of technical concepts whereas Category E participants should showcase original and novel contributions to the industry.


  • should be a visual representation of information, incorporating photo micrographs, tables, system architectures, and other illustrative material that help convey the meaning of research results.
  • provide a clear flow of information (the ideal poster should be concise enough to read in five minutes).
  • can deal with any technical topic relevant to the welding industry. Popular topics include welding processes and controls, welding procedures, weld design, structural weld integrity, weld inspection, and metallurgy.
  • are judged based on four criteria: technical content (40 points), delivery (25 points), presentation (20 points), and figure quality (15 points).

Are you ready?

This is just an overview of the rules and guidelines. Be sure to visit the AWS Poster Competition webpage for detailed design guidelines, general tips, and the poster submission form. This year’s deadline for submission is September 6, 2019. This blog post is based on an article written by Katie Pacheco for the August 2017 edition of the Welding Journal, the industry’s leader in welding content. To see the full article, which includes tips from past winners, sign up to become an AWS member and begin receiving your copy of the Welding Journal every month.

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