Trailer fabrication workshop helps high school ag teachers

UT Martin hosted its first trailer fabrication workshop for area high school agriculture teachers June 27-28 at the West Tennessee Agricultural Pavilion.

The workshop brought in 24 teachers from Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana.

Dr. Will Bird, associate professor of agricultural education, said he attended a similar workshop last year at Southern Arkansas University.

“I just wanted to go to it as a professional development,” he said. “I teach an ag mechanics class, and I wanted to get better at putting things together and building things as opposed to welding and the basic skills.”

That workshop was run by Dr. Trent Wells, who is now an associate professor of agricultural education at Murray State University. He spoke with Bird after the workshop and offered to help him put on a similar workshop at UT Martin.

Dr. Steven Chumbley, associate professor of agriculture education and mechanics at Texas A&M-Kingsville, was also brought to UT Martin to help with the workshop.

Bird said the workshop is to help area high school agriculture teachers gain more experience and to better learn the industry standards for putting together complex objects like a trailer to pull behind a vehicle.

“The principles can be used to make an even bigger, more complex project,” he said. “When these teachers leave here, they’ll have all the resources and skills they need to go back and teach students how to build trailers and other things.”

Bird said that he and Wells talked about alternating sites between their respective universities for future workshops each year.

“We’re going to do a more complex, larger trailer, and it’s going to be a four-day workshop,” Bird said. “I’m going to help him with that up there at Murray State next year.”

Bird said many of the attending teachers are in their first five years of teaching.

“I remember what that was like,” he said. “No matter how much you do, how many classes you take and things you do in college, in your first couple of years teaching, you just never know quite enough.

“It’s really fun to watch these young teachers figure out that not only can they do this, but they can teach students how to do this. There is some confidence-building that goes along with it.”

Bird said the workshop also serves as a means of outreach to the teachers in the region and beyond.

“I feel like we do an excellent job of outreach as a campus, but in our department, we especially like to keep our doors open and keep a good bridge between us and ag teachers and extension agents,” he said. “I try to take every opportunity I can to help them whenever I can.”

The trailers being built are 6-by-10-foot trailers made of mild steel.

“The trailers we’re building will be raffled off,” Bird said. “This will be a way to raise money for scholarships for UTM ag education students. We started an ag education endowment scholarship a couple of years ago.

“My plan is to raffle the first one off at Homecoming and another one, maybe, at the state FFA convention this next spring. So, they’re going to be put to good use.”

For more information about the University of Tennessee at Martin, visit For more information about the UTM Department of Agriculture, Geosciences and Natural Resources, call the department at 731-881-7262.

PHOTO: Dr. Will Bird (third from left) provides instruction to a small group of teachers taking part in UT Martin’s inaugural trailer fabrication workshop. Listening to Bird are (L-R) Jay McIlwain of Muhlenberg County (Ky.) High School, Jeremy Doggett of Richland High School and Buford Criswell of Paul G. Blazer High School in Ashland, Kentucky.

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