SPE Composites Division Supports Build Out of Badger Tech Sailboat

On June 14, 2013 I had the honor to attend the commissioning of the Badger Tech sailboat on the lakefront of Lake Mendota, Madison, WI. The sailboat was manufactured at the University of Wisconsin’s Mechanical Engineering department. The SPE Composites Division donated the funds needed to purchase a license for the PAM-RTM simulation software. The development of the sailboat revolved around an Introduction to Composites Processing course initiated by Prof. Tim Osswald. The course covered composites manufacturing theory in addition to a main project, which was building the Badger Tech. They performed flow and FEA simulations in addition to the complete lay-out and molding. The course was taken by 26 students during the spring semester. Another course is being taught over the summer. The course included a lot of engineering students who are also part of the UW Hoofers Sailing Club.

Boat hull-1 Boat hull-7 Boat hull-9Boat hull-4

PAM-RTM was used by the students to simulate the resin flow through the fiber layup in the boat molds by considering different configurations proposed by the students for the location of inlets.

Boat hull - infusion simulationBoat sailing

I was very impressed by the leadership and motivation of the students I met. Building a composites part like this for the first time is not an easy task. They worked very hard to provide a finished product that functions and looks great.

I am proud of the Composites Division providing support and taking part on this project. This is the type of program that helps the development of composites knowledge at the student level. Also, a paper is in the works that will be submitted to the ANTEC 2014 conference.

Antoine Rios, Secretary SPE Composites Division

Composite Engineering Education

As a representative of the SPE Composites division, I was recently asked if we would participate in the development of a curriculum for an engineering school to offer a major in Composite Engineering.  My first question is: Where are the educational centers for composites today?

Here are a few that I know of:

  1. Winona State
  2. University of Delaware
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. UMass Lowell
  5. Michigan State

I believe we should start by looking at the existing programs, then develop an idea for how the SPE can help start new programs, and/or certify existing ones.  I believe most of the programs out there actually reside within a larger Materials Engineering department, but are not separate Composite Engineering degree programs.  I believe MIT, Tufts, CalTech, and many others do something like that.

This blog is the perfect place to get started on such a discussion.  I think we should open it up to a much wider group to get the greatest possible inputs.

I started thinking about labs, and projects that could be done to teach composites, software that would be relevant, math courses that would be useful.  But then, I kept coming back to the initial question of what has already been done?  I think we should start with a survey of existing programs.

Beginning with Vocational/ Technical school level courses, there are several places to get technician training.  These are usually short courses, of between 3 days and 2 weeks, and not a full semester, or a full year.  They usually cover specific areas, like tool making, or repair.

At the college level, there are many programs in Materials, Plastics, Processing, Testing, Nanomaterials, etc., but I am not aware of any institution that offers Composite Engineering as Major or concentration.  I recently asked a professor at UMass Lowell about this, and she said she didn’t know if there was enough demand for the specialty – is there?

Andy Rich, Chairman Composites Division SPE