Forging the World
Written by Cindy Bevington
It's the pen in your hand, the cell phone in your pocket. It's a microwave oven or the doll in a child's playbox. From computers to X-ray machines to race cars and space rockets and countless other products, 90 percent of all manufactured goods contain one or more cast metal components.
The history behind the cast metal industry and metallurgy goes back beyond 20th century foundries, beyond the forgers of this nation's Declaration of Independence-seven signers of the Declaration were metal casters and foundrymen-beyond France's development of malleable iron in 1720, and even beyond the first steel cast in India in 500 A.D. Indeed, it dates back further than the birth of Christ, all the way back to 3200 B.C., when a copper frog, the oldest known casting in existence, was created in Mesopotamia. The second-oldest industry known to mankind, metal casting plays such an integral part in human development that, without it, the modern age of man might very well never have happened.
It is on this foundation that Tri-State University has built its acclaimed cast metals program, forged over 60 years through the mechanical engineering department and producing graduates who, to this day, not only continue to earn recognition for their achievements, but who are highly recruited by industry leaders. During an October 2004 accreditation review and audit by the Foundry Educational Foundation, the TSU program earned 357 points out of a possible 420, the highest score ever achieved by a school not granting doctoral degrees. Among schools that grant doctorates, including Purdue, Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama and Michigan Tech, only one-Penn State-has ever scored higher. The coup earned Tri-State a six-year accreditation.
The FEF (Foundry Educational Foundation) is the cast metals industry's educational program at the college level. It includes four-year technology schools as well as traditional engineering colleges and graduate schools, and spans the broad range of higher education from production supervision to specialized research.
The FEF was established in 1947 to assure a continuing supply of technical manpower for metal the casting industry.
"You have to have at least a 65 percent to get a three-year accreditation," says Paul Barker, chairman of the FEF accreditation team that visited TSU. "Anything over 80 percent gets you a six-year accreditation, and Tri-State was well above that." The next closest score, according to Barker, was 332.
As an executive member of FEF, Barker was a national trustee for the organization nine years and chairman of the group's education committee four years. He also is the director of industrial engineering at Dalton Corp., which has foundries in Warsaw and Kendallville, Indiana, and in Stryker, Ohio. "In an accreditation, what we do is a tour and an audit to evaluate the school, based on program category, curriculum, classes, labs, and practical student involvement," Barker says. "We also look at the FEF 'key' professor at the school-at Tri-State during our visit that was Dr. Luis Trueba-the school's use of discretionary allocations, the number of students registered in FEF and how many end up going to work in the metal casting industry, whether it's suppliers, casting design or in the foundries, themselves."
Other key scoring criteria include administrative support for the school, as well as donations that come to it, not just from companies, but from individuals and alumni. "We evaluate 20 different areas in all," Barker says. "Alumni support is very important. So is administrative support, as well as other types of things that show support for the industry. During our visit to Tri-State we saw an outstanding effort to recruit non-collegebound students-people who have been out of school for a while-into the program and a great interest and support by the administration in recognizing the importance of the program."
An outstanding feature at Tri-State is the enthusiasm of its students, he adds. "Not just for the school and the program, but for the total package that will help them four years down the line. I've been a member of a lot of accreditation teams, and the enthusiasm of the students, administration and professor really stands out at Tri-State."
Interestingly, despite its eminence within the industry itself, most of the department's students don't decide to go into cast metals until they get to Tri-State, Trueba says. "They usually don't know what cast metals is about, or the opportunities that are available in the industry. What they find out after they get here is that metal casting is unique in that the industry's people tend to be more down to earth, and that they can advance in their careers very quickly, compared to other industries. In fact, in this industry you can become a manager or supervisor in as little as one or two years."
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