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Research...Another Learning Tool

P. Lechner

One of the benefits of having a designated FEF Key Professor at each of our certified and affiliated schools is they have regular interaction with students who are taking foundry-related courses. With this interaction comes the responsibility of recognizing particular interest or excelling aptitude for metalcasting shown by students.

Luis Trueba is the FEF Key Professor at Texas State University. Margaret Lee is one of his students. In the fall of 2019, Professor Trueba approached Lee to see if she was interested in working on a research project that involved investigating the ability to repair casting defects in aluminum alloy 201 by friction stir processing. Friction stir processing is a solid state microstructural modification technique in which the alloy is heated to a plastic state through frictional heating and undergoes severe plastic deformation and subsequent dynamic recrystallization. 

“I approached Margaret because she was working as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the introductory foundry course and was concurrently taking the senior level foundry course that I was teaching,” Professor Trueba said. “It was clear to me that Margaret had an exceptional interest in foundry science and outstanding academic skills.”

When asked why she jumped at the opportunity, Lee said, “Although the project area was unfamiliar to me, I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn new technology while furthering my education.” She also mentioned it was exciting to think, “This project should be beneficial to the foundry industry because it develops a technique that can be used to repair castings and improve their mechanical properties.”

Learning by doing is an important facet of FEF schools’ metalcasting courses. What has Lee learned so far working on this project? 

“I have learned how to navigate unforeseen challenges due to COVID (leading to a few delays),” she said. “I have also learned to deal with unexpected research challenges. I learned to use solidification modeling software, to design and produce foundry matchplate patterns, perform mechanical testing, and I have gained more experience with CAM and generating code to run a CNC. And, of course, I have learned about friction stir processing!

“This work has really suited me because I enjoy hands-on work, and I have found it to be a very interesting area. I have enjoyed learning about friction stir processing and developing my professional skills. I believe I will be able to apply the knowledge and skills I have gained in my future career as a foundry engineer.”

The project is not yet complete but is anticipated to be finished this spring. Although this research project was generated from the mind of the FEF Key Professor, many of our FEF schools continually work on research projects brought to them by outside industry partners. If you have a project that you are interested in presenting to an FEF school, check our list of universities at https://fefinc.org/our-schools.