One of FIERF’s missions is to promote the education of future engineers who will serve the forging and related metals-processing industries. To this end, one of the Forging Foundation’s major annual philanthropic projects is the financial and logistics support it provides the ASM Materials Camp for Teachers. The camp is organized by ASM International’s Materials Education Foundation, and it is designed to introduce middle- and high-school educators to the principles of materials science and engineering.

In June, I had the opportunity to attend the week-long camp near Columbus, Ohio. I am a degreed engineer with 20 years of experience in the metal-forming industry. Last year, I took a teaching position in the STEM department at Village Academy, a PK-12 private school on the north side of Columbus. With my background, I was perfectly comfortable talking to other engineers about austenite grain sizes, precipitation hardening alloys and the like. I needed help figuring out how to talk about materials and keep the interest of a 10th grader. My students have a general interest in pursuing engineering. One week of calculating Burgers vectors seemed like a surefire way to ruin that interest.

Enter the ASM Materials Camp – a full week of engineering materials science theory, combined with experiments designed and developed with high-school students in mind. The cost of attendance by the teachers was fully covered by the ASM Materials Education Foundation, with support from FIERF and other industry foundations, as well as companies like Arconic and Honda. With some of the teachers in attendance reporting that their entire budget for the school year was a couple hundred dollars, this industry support is crucial.

The first three days of the class focused on the basic structure of metals, and then we delved into work hardening and heat treating. Hands -on activities included several crystal-growing studies and Styrofoam ball models of crystal structures. As the course progressed, campers worked with melting, casting and alloying low-melt-temperature metals. Phase transformation was introduced with a dramatic demonstration featuring a 3-yard-long steel wire resistance-heated to around 2000˚F. 

If you accept the idea that nothing holds a student’s attention like fire, then experiments using propane torches to anneal, quench and temper paper clips and hair pins will surely be a favorite.

The torches came out again as aluminum was heated to melt and form aluminum oxide. The torches stayed out as students experimented with melting and pulling glass. The course rounded out with an exploration of polymers and composites.

Of the roughly 20 teacher attendees, I was the only one with an engineering background. For most, this was their first exposure to the basics of material structures, properties and applications. The interesting hands-on work gave them tools to get their students excited about careers in material science.

The Columbus course is led by ASM Master Teachers Caryn Jackson and Todd Bolenbaugh. Both teach materials science full time at Tolles Career and Technical Center, a joint vocational high school serving school districts on the northwest side of Columbus. As full-time teachers, they were excellent at passing along not only the science of materials, but also how students react, what they find interesting, and what activities might require a bit of extra caution and vigilance on the part of the teacher.

The camp was a tremendously valuable experience. The feedback from the other educators in attendance was hugely enthusiastic, as every camp participant was talking about what experiments and ideas they will take back to their classroom. From my perspective, it was great to see how the support of FIERF is helping to pique the interest of the next generation of materials engineers.

Christian Fischer obtained his PhD in mechanical engineering from Ohio University. He was a senior research scientist at Scientific Forming Technologies Corp. before he joined academia.