MCC students create lightweight casting mold, beat the big guys to win national competition

In a competition seemingly of David versus the Goliaths, three MCC students represented

West Michigan industry with flying colors when their product took first place at the 78th Annual

Wisconsin Regional Foundry Conference and Exposition casting competition in Milwaukee.

As the only community college competing, the MCC team defeated a field that featured

entries from seven four-year colleges and universities, including Michigan Tech, Western

Michigan University, University of Northern Iowa, Pittsburg State University (Kansas),

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and Mohawk College

from Canada.

“This is huge,” said MCC Instructor Jeff Johnston, the college’s liaison with the West

Michigan Chapter of the American Foundry Society. “The chapter members are beyond thrilled

with our first place finish.”

MCC students Brad Cook, Lori Stone and Tyler Carr worked as a team from late October

right up to the convention in February on their award-winning entry – a high duo front leg – that

emerged from their discussions with Media Technologies of Shelby, which produces educational

furniture.

“We had a whole list of different ideas, this was one of them,” said Cook, a third-year

MCC student who “grew up in a foundry home” and plans to pursue a metallurgy degree at

Michigan Tech. “We didn’t originally want to go with it because it was small. We didn’t think

we could do much with it, but everything else kept falling apart because of how we limited are.

The rules of the competition are that everything has to be made at the college.”

The MCC team, which exhibited their product during the Milwaukee convention, also

made a formal evening presentation there.

“They didn’t have any questions for us afterward, so we knew we did well,” said Stone,

who worked at Herman Miller before attending MCC to pursue a computer programming degree

with a plan to return to her former company. “We never knew who the judges were when they

came to our booth. We made sure that every person who visited was treated as if they were a

judge. We encouraged everyone to actually sit on the chair and try it out.”

At the awards presentations, the drama lingered for the MCC team. Their category was

the last on the agenda. Finally, Pittsburg State was awarded third and Wisconsin-Platteville took

second.

“Then they started to say, ‘This group is really focused on what the customer needs…,”

recounted Cook.

“And we knew we had it!” quickly added Stone.

MCC finished third in 2014 and second in 2015 and 2016. The prize money goes to the

AFS Student Chapter.

Cook and Johnston had met in the fall with Media Technologies about their needs. The

MCC team had used the college’s 3-D printer to create a fabricated chair leg part that they

believed could help the company.

“A fabrication is stamped parts or machine parts that are welded together,” explained

Johnston. “The MCC team wanted to make a three-piece fabrication into a single piece casting.

When they did that, they took the weight out because they went from steel to aluminum, so there

was a cost reduction right there. When they went to aluminum, they took away the steel, which

corrodes and rusts. Aluminum doesn’t rust. So there’s no secondary process of coating it.”

In effect, the MCC team replaced a three-piece metal part with multiple welds that had to

be coated and weighed 1.54 pounds. In its place, they created a one-piece air-set sand mold

aluminum casting that weighed just over half a pound. The result would be a 37 percent cost

reduction as well as a decrease in production time.

The independent AFS judges evaluated each entry on its benefits delivered to the casting

customer, the use of the casting process’ unique capabilities, the quality and workmanship, and

the poster and booth presentation at casting competition.

“We did a project from start to finish and having it pay off was well worth it,” said Carr,

a second semester MCC student who plans to pursue electrical engineering at Western Michigan

University, reflecting on the hundreds of hours his team invested.

For Cook, the long-term rewards were obvious.

“This is kind of what I imagine doing in my career as a metallurgist,” he concluded.

“Turning a three-piece welding into a single casting is right up my alley in the long run. I’ll have

this on my resume, for sure.”

 

Featured Image: MCC students (from left) Tyler Carr, Brad Cook and Lori Stone won first place and $2,500 for the West Michigan chapter of the American Foundry Society in the association’s annual competition. Their entry was a one-piece aluminum casting of a chair leg for a Shelby manufacturer. – Tom Cook photo

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