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Birmingham High School Students Meet Metalcasting

Pam Lechner

What do University of Alabama-Birmingham FEF Key Professor Haibin Ning, college students taking his metalcasting courses and 40 Birmingham City Schools high school students have in common? Their excitement for metalcasting!

Earlier this year, Ning invited the high school students to spend a day in the UAB foundry. 

“For decades, UAB has been fully dedicated to educating students at all levels, from elementary- to college-age, about metalcasting,” Ning said. “Outreaching to the students from local high schools is critical in getting them involved in metalcasting; recruiting students meets the future needs of metalcasting industries for engineers/technicians, as well as markets our (UAB) foundry program.” 

Outreach in this region is especially important because of the opportunity it represents to reach traditionally underserved communities. 

“There are more than 85% African-American students in the Birmingham City Schools. It is one of our main responsibilities at the UAB foundry and School of Engineering to provide these students with opportunities to be exposed to metalcasting in our foundry and other STEM related activities in our school,” Ning said.

With the help of several of  Ning’s students, the foundry was set up for the visit. His students were tasked with the responsibilities of explaining the casting process to the visitors, assisting throughout the hands-on activities, and answering questions posed by the high schoolers.

Each of the high school students made their scratch plate design and watched the steel being poured into their molds. Then, with the help of the UAB students, they cleaned and sand blasted the final product so it was ready to take home with them.

“It was rewarding to see their excitement as they casted metal designs from sand molds and learned about ongoing projects at the foundry,” said UAB student Kiria Ford. “Seeing their eagerness to explore the world of materials science and engineering inspires me to continue to give back to younger aspiring engineers.” 

UAB student Derrick Armstrong added: “I’ve lived in the Birmingham area my entire life and getting to meet the young people who will literally be building the future of this area was a privilege. It may be a challenge to keep the attention of some but seeing the spark in those who have an interest in metalcasting was amazing.”

Ning said it was important to bring “outsiders” into the foundry setting to elevate interest in the industry.

“Any event we host at our foundry will hopefully attract more students to pursue degrees in the metalcasting field and, in turn, meet the needs of the metalcasting industry for engineers/technicians well into the future,” he said.

If you live near an FEF-certified or affiliated school, contact the FEF Professor and see if there’s an opportunity for you to help out with one of their upcoming outreach activities. You’ll be a positive influence on both the university students and those just being introduced to the possibilities in the metalcasting industry.