Friday, April 20, 2012

SAMPE Bridge-Building Competition

Chapter for Advanced Composites Hosts Statewide Competition at Salt Lake Community College

Advanced materials, such as carbon fiber and other composite materials are revolutionizing a variety of industries–everything from aerospace engineering and automobile construction to golfing, skiing and cycling equipment.   As more products previously made from metal, wood or steel are converted to composites, companies with facilities in Utah such as Exelis (ITT), Janicki Industries, ATK, and Boeing have an increasing need for highly qualified composites technicians. 

To meet the demands of Utah’s industry growth and open career pathways for Utahns–colleges, industry experts and professional associations are working together to find ways to educate the public about training and career opportunities in the advanced material and processing industry. 

To launch one of the first educational campaigns, the Utah Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE) hosted a statewide bridge-building competition at the Salt Lake Community College composites lab on April 11, 2012.  Students enrolled in advanced composites training from Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), Davis Applied Technology College, BYU and the University of Utah entered the competition to demonstrate their skills to industry representatives, experts, guests and faculty, and get a chance to win a prize up to $200.00.    

All together 27 students participated in the competition.  Eligible participants were required to construct a bridge that was four inches wide, four inches high; 26 inches long and weighed less than 650 grams.  Using the College’s Instron, a testing device that measures strength–students bridges were put to the test.  Kevin Wagner, a student from BYU, placed first place in the competition with a bridge that withstood the weight of 9,497 pounds before bowing or breaking.

Lenn Riddle, Program Chair for SAMPE is already planning next year’s bridge competition.  Riddle hopes to have ‘teams’ that are comprised of students from two or more schools.  A cross pollination of schools would provide students from both technical/hands-on programs and theoretical/engineering programs to collaborate with each other to build a single bridge.    

Emily Johnson, a female student from SLCC’s Composites Technology Training never thought she would be in an advanced technology field after being in the medical field for over 15 years.    While in the program, Johnson learned how to use several machines, tools and equipment to manufacture composite products.  Johnson was one of two females in her cohort of about 15 students, a common ratio found among composites training programs. “It’s a great career for women because it requires a lot of manual dexterity,” said JoAnn Matern, Education Chair of SAMPE. “We have several women go through the program and they are very good at it!” 
The SLCC Composites Technology Training offers three levels to the certificate program that can be completed in as little as ten-weeks.   As a growing key industry in the state of Utah, graduates have a large pool of companies to work for, especially in the aerospace and outdoor products industries. 

 “I really appreciate the training.  I was laid off from a job in January, and I really wanted to better my skills for the job market.  Now I am in the position of deciding which job I want to take,” said Brent Swenson, student in the Composites Technology Training at SLCC. 

 “Students in these programs are being trained to be composites technicians, but as the industry grows I see them being able to do more,” said Matern.  “I see them as being the leaders and managers of the future.”

SAMPE Members and Advanced Composites Training Faculty
in the SLCC Composites Lab, 2012 Bridge Competition   
Bridges from competition.