Brian Ray, chairman of the Society of Plastics Engineers Thermoforming Division, marveled at the technical savvy of students enrolled in today's university-level plastics programs during opening remarks Sept. 22 at the division's annual luncheon for its scholarship winners.
``I've been out of school for 15 years and the qualities of programs that have been developed for our industry are unbelievable,'' Ray said.
At the awards, held during the division's Sept. 20-23 annual conference in Minneapolis, four students received scholarships totaling $26,000; one winner, Timothy McMaster, won a grant for the second year in a row.
McMaster, a senior at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan., took the $7,500 John Griep Memorial Scholarship in 2007. This year, he received an award that combined a new $2,000 scholarship from Processing Technologies LLC of Aurora, Ill., with the SPE division's existing $1,500 Director Select Scholarship.
McMaster works at a custom fiberglass shop that manufactures corrosion-resistant air-handling equipment. After winning the 2007 scholarship, he used the leverage that gave him to convince one of his firm's customers to use thermoformed ABS instead of fiberglass in a project.
``I make quick, cheap, low-production thermoforming tooling out of polyester or vinyl ester resins systems. Basically, for the price you would pay for a pattern, we can have a functioning mold that will get by to see if the concept will work or to even do short runs,'' McMaster said in an interview at the luncheon.
Katie Lieg, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in polymeric fluids, won the 2008 Griep Memorial Scholarship. Lieg worked as an undergraduate researcher on small-engine carburetors, an experience that led to a co-op at boat engine maker Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac, Wis., where she helped design engine components.
Lieg's senior thesis, ``Thermoforming Troughs,'' was presented at Antec 2008 and has been submitted for possible inclusion in SPE's premier journal, Polymer Engineering & Science.
``Thermoforming is done so empirically that I wanted to show that there is science behind what we're doing and that there is a very solid basis behind what works and what doesn't work,'' Lieg said.
The $7,500 Thermoforming Memorial Scholarship went to Jared Spaniol, a senior at Pennsylvania State University's Behrend College in Erie, Pa., who is studying plastics engineering technology. For his senior project, Spaniol developed a tool to test the thermoformability of different resins. His research will focus on what properties make one sheet more thermoformable than another.
Marcus Gardner, a junior at Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids, Mich., received the $7,500 Edward Segan Memorial Scholarship. After working for 12 years as a thermoforming setup technician, Gardner realized that it was difficult to advance without a formal education and sought an associate's degree in plastics technology.
Once he has that degree, he plans to transfer to Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., to obtain a bachelor's in plastics engineering technology.