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Industry Outreach in Teacher Camps

Pam Lechner

FEF’s mission for the past 75 years has been to “strengthen the metal casting industry by supporting unique partnerships among students, educators and industry, helping today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders.”

The only way to achieve this mission is if there is a continuous supply of students—young people who know what metalcasting is and are excited about the prospect of contributing to the industry.
How do we make sure there is a continuous supply of young people? How do we get the word out about metalcasting and the importance it plays in everything around us? When is the best time to reach the next generation?

The answer to the last question: as soon as possible. The sooner a student is exposed to the world of molten metal, the better the chances of keeping the pipeline filled with future metalcasters (answering the first question) and the easier it is to instill in them the importance of castings in our life (answering the second question).

One way to get the word out to high schoolers, and even elementary school-aged children, is to educate their teachers and give them the resources, experience, and knowledge to share with their students. FEF, FEF universities, FEF partners, and industry societies are providing these opportunities, sometimes through metalcasting teacher camps.

For example, the University of Northern Iowa participated in a camp in 2021 that was part of a statewide initiative to allow teachers to gain credit for their certification.

“The purpose of the camp was to provide advanced training in various technology areas for high school industrial arts teachers,” explained FEF Key Professor Scott Giese. “There were 25 teachers that attended, the maximum allowed for the class.

“Metalcasting was selected in 2021 because the activity is a heavily hands-on and interactive experience for students (the teachers). This initial objective was to provide supplies, resources, and expertise for developing a metal casting exercise.” 

One of the best ways to learn is by doing. This camp included an activity in the foundry performing the green sand molding process with molten aluminum. Another activity was in the UNI Production Lab making small petro-bond molds and pouring zinc. Six hours of lectures were also included in the camp.

“Once this component is well established, we are planning to develop a website for teachers and high school students to learn about metal casting opportunities and careers,” Giese said.

Another camp was held this summer—ASM Teachers Camp. ASM International offers camp annually, hosted by different universities. This year, the University of Michigan was the location. FEF Professor Tim Chambers was the on-campus contact. This was a Year 2 camp for teachers who have completed a camp previously but want to learn more about materials science and teach more MSE content in their own classes, including metalcasting. About 20 teachers (mostly high school, but a few middle school and two-year college teachers) spent a half day doing Foundry in a Bucket with several volunteers from ASM, AFS, and FEF joining in the fun.

These teacher camps, along with student-focused activity opportunities, will help ensure young minds and lives are influenced toward the metalcasting industry at an early age—keeping the pipeline of future employees well-stocked.