In February, seven colleges competed as part of a Great Lakes-area casting competition hosted by the AFS Wisconsin Regional Conference. Student teams from Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech), Muskegon Community College, Purdue University, University of Northern Iowa, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Western Michigan University designed and manufactured an engineered cast component to showcase their capabilities. Serving as a judge for this competition, I had the privilege of talking to each team about their casting and the development process behind their entry.
Through these discussions, the excitement and passion these students had for their projects was evident. These teams utilized additive manufacturing of molds and prototypes, simulation software, computer-aided engineering and design, finite element analysis and CNC machining to complement traditional pattern building, mold making and other casting production techniques. They engineered and manufactured cast components for customers ranging from other students and university-based facilities to a racing team and a commercial metalcaster.
The criteria for judging each casting entry was focused on: benefits delivered to the casting customer, use of the unique capabilities of the casting process, and quality and workmanship. Based on these factors, the team from the Univ. of Wisconsin-Platteville came out on top with its three cast part assembly that draws the windows shut at the former personal home and studio (named Taliesin) of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The team was tasked with producing these historic reproductions as a replacement for the originals, installed in the home
While interviewing each of these student teams, I caught myself reflecting upon my years in school. Did I have anywhere near the passion toward a potential profession these student groups were showcasing? Then, taking this a step further, how did this passion for metalcasting begin and, subsequently, develop so quickly in these students?
The reality is that the passion (for whatever profession they pursue) is developed differently for every individual. For some, it is following in the steps of their parents. For others, it is following in the steps of their idols or what Hollywood has spotlighted for them. Still others are influenced by a teacher or a fellow classmate.
After my interviews for the competition, I thought about what initially sparked my passion for journalism. It was the movie All the President’s Men. While in high school, I rented it from the video store at the urging of my father (because I had little interest in watching a 20-year-old movie). News reporters were just like spies and secret agents...so cool. That was the profession for me.
Hopefully, a few of those 30-plus students representing those seven schools at the competition are thinking similarly about metallurgy and metalcasting. This would result in the industry being the real winner.