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Summer Is for Metalcasting

Pam Lechner

Space camp, cooking camp, basketball camp, music camp, nature camp, Metalcasting Camp. If you look hard enough, there’s a summer camp experience available for almost any sport or activity that children and teens enjoy.

Many FEF schools offer open foundry opportunities for kids for a few hours a couple times a year, but what about a deeper dive into the basics of metalcasting, like what it is and what causes viscosity, what temperature should the metal reach before pouring, and what’s the difference between ferrous and nonferrous?

For the answer to these and other questions, attendance at Western Michigan University’s summer metalcasting camp is a must. Since 1998, FEF Key Professor Sam Ramrattan has been hosting 10-15 high school students each summer for a five-day camp. 

“WMU continues to offer this summer camp because it’s important to expose young people to various educational and career options before they enroll in college, before they make up their mind regarding what they want to do for the rest of their lives,” Ramrattan said.

Not only does this camp teach the kids some of the basics of metalcasting, but they also enjoy the experience of staying in a university dorm and eating at the cafeteria. They visit a local foundry to see what they’ve been learning in a real-world environment. They have an opportunity to network with industry professionals and ask whatever questions they may have, and of course, they create their own castings, including pouring them.

When asked why they were attending the camp this year, students mentioned: “I wanted to see the different job opportunities available,” “I am interested in metalcasting,” “My teacher recommended the camp,” and “I thought the camp sounded cool.”

Each of the students had a different reason for attending, but the result was that there were 12 young people introduced to the possibility of making this industry their vocation of choice.

An interesting thing about this camp is that the campers attend at no cost. Each camper is sponsored by funding from local AFS Chapters. Why would a chapter choose to “spend” $700 for a young person to attend a metalcasting camp? 

“Our chapter was in unanimous support of donating towards this opportunity for a future metalcaster to be introduced to the industry,” said Michelle Ring, from the AFS Central Indiana Chapter. “It’s valuable for high school students to have this experience prior to selecting their college major.” 

In addition to chapter support, Ramrattan also uses some of his annual FEF allocations to provide this unique experience for these students.

On Thursday evening of the camp, the students enjoy pizza and some networking time with local industry professionals, including several WMU alumni. Area industry professionals like Jay Morrison (WMU undergrad ‘00/masters ’08 grad/FEF Board Member) attend the event each year.

“I like to help educate students about the metalcasting industry,” he said. “There have been several students from this camp that have ended up in industry, so I think it’s worthwhile. I am very passionate about metalcasting; I don’t have any children, so mentoring the next generation of metalcasters feels like I am continuing my legacy.” 

Chris Lee (’04 WMU grad) added: “My experience at WMU was great. I return so that I can help provide a fun, educational experience for young people who may choose metalcasting as their career.”

Providing multiple and various opportunities for young people to be introduced to and educated in metalcasting continues to be an important job for our FEF schools and Key Professors. Thanks for your continued participation; your gifts help fund the many metalcasting activities going on at our universities and colleges.