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Pittsburg State’s Mini Foundry Connects With the Next Generation of Metalcasters

Pam Lechner

How do we influence and educate the next generation about the metalcasting industry? How do we bring the best and the brightest individuals into our industry? There are so many options, so many evolving opportunities that are presented to young people these days, we need to create as many touch points as possible to keep metalcasting in the forefront of young minds.

One such opportunity that Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, Kansas) is taking advantage of is its “mini foundry.” Sarah Case, who is a mechanical engineering technology major at PSU, has been helping to build this unique recruiting tool. With the “mini foundry,” PSU students can perform small green sand molding demonstrations and cast little tin parts using mini flasks and mini match-plates. For the past several years, PSU has invited Girl Scouts into the foundry to make their own castings. The new “mini foundry” will make this event even more educational and productive.

In the Spring of 2020, the project began with designs for a mini flask and students making a few sample castings. Full production of the flasks began with 3D-printed patterns mounted to a 16 x 20-in. matchplate. They were run at Superior Aluminum Castings in Independence, Missouri. Superior produced 30 miniature flask cope and drag sets. This year’s mini matchplate design was a spinning top casting.

Case advanced the project by machining the flasks and finalizing cope and drag alignment. This involved designing and making a fixture for the parts to sit in while machining with the CNC mill, helping write the CNC program, and actually machining the castings and adding alignment pins. 

“This project helped me get more experience that contributed to my Manufacturing Methods II class and my Tool Design class,” Case said. “The project was important because I felt it would be really beneficial to future students. Hands-on projects like this instill a passion for STEM.” 

Case also mentioned her Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter plans to use this tool when hosting engineering days for younger girls who often aren’t exposed to as many STEM projects like this.

This project expanded Case’s learning experience. Not only did she learn about tooling, manufacturing, and programming the CNC machines, she also increased her knowledge about designing castings and patterns/matchplates.

The ripple effect of the project: it will reach many students into the future. 

“I really enjoyed this experience,” Case said, “I have become more interested in the metalcasting industry because of this project. I am very excited to be able to use the ‘mini foundry’, alongside my professors, to reach and teach younger students.”

Thanks to Case and multiple students like her across the family of FEF schools, the love of metalcasting continues to be shared with the next generation.