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It’s Elementary: Young Students Experience Casting with Former Students

Pam Lechner

What does a charter school called SAGES (School for Agricultural and Environmental Studies) have to do with the metalcasting industry? It just might be where some of the next generation of metalcasters are currently attending.

On a beautiful spring day in May 2023, a group of Mercury Marine employees spent the day at SAGES demonstrating metalcasting using with Foundry in a Box. The audience comprised boys and girls from Kindergarten through sixth grade, along with their teachers. Some had an idea what metalcasting is, but many were being exposed to the excitement of pouring hot metal for the first time.

The foundry team set up its designated area in four sections: one for selecting the pattern, one for molding, one for pouring, and one for finishing the product. The kids began their adventure selecting the pattern of their choice, which even included their school logo. Then it was time to add the sand to the flask, making sure it was nicely compacted and revealing the finished mold. 

The kids weren’t allowed to do the pouring, but they were fascinated watching as the hot metal flowed into their casting. Waiting for the metal to solidify was the hardest part, but they all had to wait until the casting was no longer too hot to handle. How did their casting turn out? Were there any defects? Was it pretty close to perfect? Teachers and students alike were delighted with the outcomes.

The last step was finishing the casting with files and brushes, making castings ready to take home and proudly show their families.

Throughout the process, students had the opportunity to ask questions while the Mercury Marine employees shared information about the different steps. One student exclaimed, “Woah, that’s cool.” While another, who had learned a new word that morning, said, “I took the sprue out.” A teacher was heard saying, “When you’re done with the boat pattern, I need to redo mine because I put my knuckles in it.” And one student rolled a comment into a question into a warning: “I like this. When you take that out, is that where you pour the metal? If you touch it with your finger, your finger will fall off.” At least he understood the importance of staying away from the hot metal.

Employees who participated from Mercury Marine, nine of whom are former FEF students or co-op students, did so because they know the importance of sharing metalcasting with the younger generation. Jacob Belke (a graduate of Missouri University of Science & Technology) said, “I always enjoy teaching people about what I do and sharing the passion for metalcasting. You never know where the next metalcasters will come from. Mary McCoy Primmer (a graduate of University of Northern Iowa) added, “I participate in Foundry in a Box because it is so rewarding to see that ‘lightbulb moment’ when a student makes their first casting and understands the sandcasting process. It’s always followed by a huge smile and the words, ‘Can I make another?!”

The FEF network of schools needs students to continue to choose metalcasting as their area of study. Why? Because this industry, your company, needs the pipeline of employees to continue to produce knowledgeable and experienced individuals who will be ready to make their contribution.