Children streamed into the lunchroom at Trace Crossings Elementary School in Hoover for the annual Career Day fair on Feb. 27. Vendors from local businesses and organizations manned tables throughout the space, offering fun information on their job fields and handing out goodie bags. The majority of the children, however, congregated around several long tables at the entrance; tables covered with curious metal flasks and grey sand. Many of the red aprons the children were asked to put on while stepping up to the tables were so large they trailed along the floor. The plastic gloves swallowed their tiny hands, but their smiles were excited and genuine.
Volunteers with the American Foundry Society (AFS) Birmingham Chapter presented Foundry in a Box to around 450 elementary school children that day. Foundry in a Box is a program of the AFS and is a table-top demonstration of metal casting, designed to promote an understanding of the industry while encouraging elementary school through college students to pursue a technical education. The AFS Birmingham Chapter Foundry in a Box presentation, led by AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company Manufacturing Engineer Ken Murphy, has been demonstrated to more than 5,000 students throughout Birmingham since May 2014. But there is something unique about Birmingham’s Foundry in a Box: Volunteers take on the challenging task of presenting the demonstration to children below the fourth grade.
“Children learn better if all of their senses are involved,” said Trace Crossings’ Counselor Angie Smith. “This gives them a realistic idea of something they can do as a career later on.”
Leo Baran, director of Membership Services for AFS, traveled from Illinois to Birmingham to show support for AFS Birmingham’s Foundry in a Box at C.J. Donald Elementary School on March 23. He said typically AFS chapters show Foundry in a Box to individual classrooms. “Ken’s group is unique, however, because they’ll do their demonstration for the entire school,” Baran said. “It’s hard enough to make sixth graders understand metal casting, let alone small children. Ken should be wearing a red cape instead of a red apron.”
Baran said the Birmingham AFS Chapter has made a huge impact showing kids in a very basic and easy-to-grasp way what melting and pouring metal is all about. Baran believes AFS Birmingham may be the only AFS group demonstrating the art of metal casting to younger children.
“People don’t talk to students about working with their hands anymore,” Baran said. “These demonstrations are important because by the time most kids are in high school, they already have an idea of what they want to be. But younger children are wide open, and they need to do this so that they can start thinking about careers in manufacturing.”