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Non-School Projects Offer Students Next-Level Learning

Pam Lechner

What is the value of an FEF alumnus sharing their journey from graduation to current employment? Do their words really resonate with today’s students with whom they are sharing their story? For Peyton Potts, listening to 2022 CIC speaker, Joe Costabile, the answer is a firm yes! 

Potts attended FEF certified school, Pittsburg State, graduating in December 2023 with a major in Manufacturing Engineering Technology. Although he started his college career as a Plastics Engineering Technology major, he discovered a whole new world when he took a class taught by FEF Key Professor, Dr. Russ Rosmait, called Manufacturing Methods 1. Potts said, “I got introduced to metalcasting and the metal industry for the first time. I immediately fell in love and changed my major right away because of my fascination with the foundry industry.” 

Potts was selected to attend FEF’s College Industry Conference in 2022 where Costabile, who is corporate safety manager with Hickman, Williams and Co., shared his industry journey. Something that Costabile shared struck a chord with Potts.  

“I had the opportunity to listen to Costabile give a speech about his career, and I thought it was a really neat story––inspiring. He talked about how when he was in high school, he cast some medals for his school's swim team.” Potts added, “It had been an interest of mine to work on a project from concept and go through the entire engineering process and see it used for its intended purpose.” Up until this point, Potts had been making little widgets for himself, but he wanted to do more.  

As the two conversed at the CIC, Costabile mentioned he wanted bottle openers with his company's logo and their tag line. Potts saw this as the perfect opportunity to take on a project from start to finish and to do it for the person who inspired him to take this step. 

Why was Potts confident he would be able to complete this project successfully?  

“I had previously learned and had hands-on experience with everything necessary to conduct this project. My professors do a great job educating and allowing students to get hands-on experiences––we get to take things outside of the classroom and apply it.”  

Potts also mentioned that during the process, he had conversations with his professors about the project “because they had great interest in what I was doing.” Pittsburg State professors are representative of all FEF Key Professors: Their job is to teach students the fundamentals of metalcasting, but their mission is to help the students be successful. 

This project was not only fun for Potts; it was also educational.  

“The biggest thing I learned from this project is the importance of communication. All my previous projects had been within the university, so it was easy to communicate with people and ask questions. For this project, I had to communicate with Costabile, who is outside of my university. I also made a couple of mistakes along the way that would not have been resolved without a good base of communication.” 

What Potts enjoyed about the project was that he was able to use the investment casting process, which is his favorite method.  

“I had a 2023 summer internship at an investment casting foundry, so it was good to have more practice and understanding of the process,” he said. “I also enjoyed doing this for Costabile because he was the reason I wanted to take on this project.” 

As you have the opportunity to network with FEF students, you will find their interest in, knowledge of, and excitement for the metalcasting industry is unmatched. As an industry professional, you can also encourage and influence students much like Costabile did. Additionally, if you have a project that needs doing, consider contacting an FEF Key Professor to see if they and their students are available to assist. It will be a win-win: The project gets done and students have the opportunity for more hands-on experience. Please visit fefinc.org for a list of schools and contacts.