Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Making Metal Matter

Jeff Ellinwood seems to have been born with a natural ability for 3D design, but Hilltop Industries and Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (GVEP) have helped the 17-year-old to perfect the art — and raise more than $1,000 for charity in the process.

Jeff Ellinwood, soldering at the Hilltop
work center in Mount Morris
“My dad and my mother both say that, at age three, I took the entire phone apart at home, then put it back together and it still worked,” Jeff says, with a chuckle. “The story has never changed, so I’m pretty sure that it might be factual.”

Fourteen years later, Jeff put those same design and assembly skills to work with the creation of two metal sculptures — a lizard (with fellow student Brandon Jensen) and a dog — that would sell for hundreds of dollars each, with proceeds benefiting local not-for-profit agencies. Jeff’s work was part of United Way’s “Steel Harmony” auction, held May 31st in Geneseo. The auction of more than 40 animal sculptures created by students in metal trades instructor Olie Olson’s program at GVEP raised more than $18,000 for the United Way of Livingston and Wyoming counties.

You could say that Jeff entered the metal trades program by way of Hilltop. Just over a year ago, he was introduced to the process of joining metals together when he was placed at Hilltop through Livingston County Workforce Development’s Livingston Youth Employment Program (LYEP). For five weeks last summer, Jeff soldered electrical components for Star Headlight and Lantern, a Hilltop-contracted manufacturer of lights for emergency vehicles.
Jeff’s dachshund
sculpture sold at
auction for $650

“On his first day of work, he was already composed and confident,” says Outreach Coordinator Jean Angililli. “He acted like he had done this forever. As time went on, he showed leadership skills and helped the other youth, and also anyone who was there working, if they were having trouble.  Ultimately, Jeff was able to attend the GVEP welding program — and he really got his start learning to solder at Hilltop.”

Jeff’s passion for metalworking extends beyond the school and work. He is considering a career in electrical engineering and robotics, and in his spare time, he welds pieces for the chassis of go-karts. And while he may not be taking apart any telephones these days, he still enjoys his share of tinkering.

“Basically, I make stuff,” Jeff says. “Whenever I get bored, I think, ‘Well, maybe I could make this, and it would be kind of cool.’ It becomes my project for the day, or whatever amount of time it takes me."

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