Foundry in a box brings STEM careers to Etowah

One of Waupaca Foundry’s most innovative programs is hitting the road in the Etowah, Tenn. city school system. Team members from Waupaca Foundry Etowah brought the hands-on “Foundry in a Box” program to the school system’s STEM Fair in April and had more than 100 students and parents in attendance.

Foundry in a Box is a customized program created by Waupaca Foundry that helps students understand the importance of science, engineering, technology and mathematics in today's world. Team members expose the students to STEM careers available right in their own communities.

At Waupaca Foundry, hundreds of pounds of (ductile/gray) iron is poured into sand molds (about the size of a chest freezer) to make the parts that keep cars, tractors, and even fire hydrants in working order. At the schools, it all happens on a tabletop.

The team literally puts the foundry in a plastic box along with a small electric heater that melts tin to about 500-degrees. Molds to hold the liquid metal are made from a mixture of sand and oil. The process is very similar to building a sand castle where sand is packed to create impressions in the mold. Under the supervision of trained foundry men and women, students don safety equipment, manufacture the sand molds, help pour liquid tin into molds, and use files to sand off rough edges to make a variety of objects including keys, pins and key chains. During the demonstration, Waupaca Foundry employees explain that engineers, machinists and metallurgists helped create Foundry in a Box and educate the students on how the tasks they are doing relate to jobs in the foundry.

Etowah team members say the program was so successful, they ran out of sand!

“During the STEM Fair, all the other booths came down to our end of the building to see what the large crowd was doing,” said Quality Manager, Diana Elrod.

“As we poured the metal into the molds and we let the kids finish the products, the entire time we were discussing the properties of sand and mental. They were asking intelligent questions and I guarantee before that day they never thought of those concepts,” Elrod said.

Elrod says Waupaca Foundry Etowah has made the presentation several times to classrooms and will be participating in a STEAM camp this summer to give students a better understanding of the engineering and foundry jobs available right in their own backyards.