Students prove where there's a weld, there's a way

It is not every day that students are advised to complete a school project in an imperfect way, but for this school project, constructing a perfect project would have diminished the historic value of what they were building.

As students set out to build two nearly 1,000-pound depth racks for the USS Slater beginning last year, Colonie Central High School Automotive Instructor Chris Hanley told students to simulate sometimes sloppy welds and sloppy craftsmanship when constructing a replica of a rack that was used to hold depth charges during World War II.

On Tuesday, March 24, students who worked on the project were honored by the South Colonie Central School District Board of Education after they received the Booth Award from the Historic Naval Ships Association for their construction of the racks " an award that is only given to one individual or group a year for making a "significant contribution" to the historic preservation of a naval ship.

Hanley said a lot of the work that the students did on the racks was very similar to the way they were built during wartime, with welders working out of tight spaces similar to a classroom.

"A lot of the accessories that were put on these liberty ships were assembled in people's basements," Hanley said, explaining why there were some imperfections to the welding.

According to executive director of the USS Slater Destroyer Escort Historical Museum Tim Rizzuto, the depth racks were used during World War II to hold the depth charge, an explosive weapon that was used on the ship, as well as ship-wear equipment.

Rizzuto said the museum has collaborated with Colonie Central High School over the past several years to help restore the ship to what it used to look like during World War II.

Colonie Central technology teacher Barry Witte, a graduate of the Naval Academy, has been involved with the ship's restorations for the past several years.

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