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Intro Course and Backyard Foundry Lead to Casting Career

Pam Lechner

Does the Introduction to Metals Processing class make a difference in a college student’s life choice? After all, it’s just an introduction. In at least one instance, the answer to that question is a resounding YES!

Maybe it was the professor (UW-Platteville Key Professor Kyle Metzloff), maybe it was the timing (during the pandemic), maybe it was the group of students (Industrial Technology Management majors); or maybe it was the student—Grant Roth, ITM major with an emphasis in Manufacturing Technology Management and a minor in Product Development & Drafting.

Whatever the motivators, Roth’s interest in metals began when he took Introduction to Metals. 

“I can thank Dr. Metzloff for his teaching style and enthusiasm, which really made the course interesting and enjoyable,” he said. 

During the period that they were taking courses online, Roth said a group of students wanted to “start another hobby that would allow us to build something from nothing and watch our skills improve.” The logical project? A mini foundry in the backyard of his college house using a steel bucket and some refractory.

According to Roth, he built the foundry with help from his roommates and members of the AFS student chapter after he learned the basic skills and tools necessary. And they have learned and continue to learn since the first time firing it. One of the biggest takeaways was the usefulness of propane over coal or coke when melting aluminum. 

“We’ve also been learning which refractory materials to use to optimize the efficiency by reducing heat loss,” Roth said. “This has become helpful as we have started to melt metals with a higher melting point such as brass. This list will grow each time the foundry is used as there are so many things to learn.”

Although the foundry is mostly used for fun now, Roth and his teammates are getting better at recognizing what factors impact making a good casting while using the basic equipment they have.
Roth also honed his metalcasting skills while on a Lean-Six Sigma Manufacturing Engineering co-op in 2020 at Mercury Marine. His responsibility was to work with other engineers to improve the efficiency in the assembly process of sterndrive and outboard motors. He was also able to spend some time shadowing the lost foam casting and diecasting processes. Roth graduated this semester and accepted a position at Mercury Marine as a manufacturing engineer.

FEF students are eager to learn and put that learning into practice. Whether it’s building their own mini foundry or contributing to the success of their internship, co-op, or full-time employer. You, as a metalcasting employer, will find that when you hire an FEF student, you are a step ahead of the competition. Your new hires will be experienced, enthusiastic, and ready to jump in and make a difference. Contact FEF to see how you can connect with our Key Professors and students when you’re ready to fill that open position—info@fefinc.org.       

Click here to read the column in the May 2022 digital edition.