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High school students test their metal

Prospective engineers Ty Williams (left), 17, of Peoria Heights, Ill., and Katie Bews, 15, of Wisconsin, experiment with electroplating Monday during a Materials Engineering Camp at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. Students learned from professionals about working with the structural properties of metals and other substances during the camp. (AP Photo by Fred Zwicky /Journal Star)

By Michael Boren
The (Peoria) Journal Star

Peoria, Ill. (AP) — Are various brands of razor blades really all that different?

A group of high school students at Bradley University’s Materials Engineering Camp are exploring that very question. The camp is offering the students, mostly juniors and seniors in high school, a chance to get hands-on experience with materials engineering.

The camp is meant to excite them about the engineering field, said Marv McKimpson, co-chairman of the camp.

“That’s much more important than the few facts we can tell them about materials,” he said.

Students are divided into six groups that will study a specific aspect of materials engineering and present their findings July 25. Caterpillar employees are among the volunteers helping the students.

The students went through several workshops. The first one, failure analysis, taught them about the tools materials engineers use to understand how and why components fail.

“You pretty much ask yourself, ‘What went wrong? Why did it go wrong?'” said Sam Shah, 16, who will be a junior at Dunlap High School.

The second workshop, materials processing, offered an overview of the techniques engineers use to form and shape materials.

The third workshop, mechanical testing, introduced the students to test methods and tools that materials engineers use to evaluate materials.

After completing the morning workshops, each student was able to walk away with a tin casting made in part by melting tin.

For Nora Race, a 16-year-old who will be a senior at Richwoods High School, the first workshop was the hardest.

“Honestly it felt kind of over my head. I didn’t understand all of it,” she said.

But she thinks she will be able to apply the workshop lessons to her group’s project, which focuses on heat treatment, she said.

Beyond the workshops, Race hopes to work with planes in the field of aeronautical engineering.

“It seems like space and sky,” she said, “are still left for us to discover.”

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