Material Learning

By Frank Radosevich II
July 25, 2012

Roughly 30 Peoria-area high school students poured molten pewter into molds, bent steel rods and ate crunchy marshmallows this week while participating in the ASM Materials Camp.

The weeklong camp provides students with real-world experiences and a better understanding of materials used in everything from industrial tractors to children’s toys. Bradley’s Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering and Technology Department organizes the camp with help from the Peoria Chapter of the American Society of Materials.

Now in its eighth year, the day camp teaches students about the properties and uses of metals, plastics and bio-materials as well as helps teenagers build presentation and teamwork skills.

“It’s helpful for them to decide what they want to do after high school,” said Jeff Jensen, co-chair for the ASM Materials Camp. As a Caterpillar Inc. employee and a graduate of Bradley’s Management for the 21st Century program, Jensen noted the camp’s significant educational value. This year the students visit the bronze foundry in Heuser Hall and attend workshops in the laboratories of Morgan Hall.

Jensen said the facilities at Bradley are invaluable to the camp and give students a taste of what studying engineering is like on a college campus. Lab experiments, like freezing rubber balls in liquid nitrogen until they shatter when dropped, demonstrate principles of materials science to the students.

“What we are doing here are not your typical high school science lab experiments. This is more hands-on, more exciting,” Jensen added.

Aside from working on campus, students also tour engineering facilities such as a Caterpillar foundry, the USDA’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research and Hot Iron Blacksmithing, a local blacksmithing shop where they can watch the intricate process of working with metals and other materials.

Josh Brandes, a senior majoring in manufacturing engineering technology, helped the organizers of the camp last year and admits he’s learned from observing the workshops in action.

“It’s a great experience,” he said of the camp. “Some of what they are doing during the week are experiments that I did in class.”

Brad Moser, 17, from Roanoke, Ill., said a high school teacher suggested he attend the camp to learn more about the field of engineering. Planning to become a mechanical engineer one day, Moser said the camp offered a welcomed change from science class and a peek at what to expect after graduation.

“It’s not like you sit down and take notes all the time,” he said. “It’s nice to know what people actually do once they’ve finished studying.”