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Engineering Student Receives Grant to Attend International Conference

General Engineering student Robert Powell operates a press in the Engineering Lab at Penn State DuBois while working on a powder metal project.
General Engineering student Robert Powell operates a press in the Engineering Lab at Penn State DuBois while working on a powder metal project.
3/19/2012 —

While still in his sophomore year of the General Engineering degree program at Penn State DuBois, student Robert Powell will have an opportunity that few professionals ever have in their entire careers. Powell has been invited to make a presentation on his current research project at the PowderMET2012 International Conference on Powder Metallurgy and Particulate Materials, to be held in June in Nashville, Tennessee.  What's more, is Powell has also received a $1500.00 grant from the Center for Powder Metallurgy Technology (CPMT) and Axel Madsen Conference Grant Program, which will cover his travel and registration costs for attending the conference. Winning the grant and the chance to present his research on the merit of his work, Powell was chosen as one of only five CPMT grant recipients in the country for 2012. 


A returning adult student and native of Brookville, PA, Powell is working on a project with the St. Marys based company, Abbott Furnace.  Abbott produces furnaces used in the powder metal (PM) industry to bake and cure parts during the production process, in addition to providing services on the fundamental understandings of their products.  Powell is researching ways help the company control lubricants in the material their furnaces bake. 


"A lubricant is a necessary component in the compaction of a powdered metal product," Powell explained.  "This lubricant leaves the part during the early stages of the sintering process that solidifies the part.  The research is based on the reaction the lubricant has inside the furnace," he said, noting that the eventual end result of his research should be an enhanced understanding of lubricant control that can help lead to the discovery of ways to increase the strength and integrity of the parts produced.  



With prior experience as a machinist, Powell decided to continue his education at Penn State DuBois in hopes of furthering his career, and moving on to work in product design.  Penn State DuBois Assistant Professor of Engineering Craig Stringer said Powell is moving in the right direction, by committing to education beyond the lab and classroom.


"He's doing research; he's working with a company to gain real and valuable information.  That's important for students," Stringer said.  "He is very dedicated.  He works hard in class, but also wants more out of his education in addition to his coursework."


Stringer said that the PM industry is coming out of a period of economic hardship and is currently growing. Companies are realizing the need to grow their product portfolios and to look at other potential markets for their products.  He said jobs are plentiful in the field, many of which are located in Central Pennsylvania.  Taking advantage of opportunities like the ones that are now before Powell, Stringer said, will go a long way in getting students the knowledge they need to succeed in the business.


"The idea is to get students involved with national and international leaders in this industry," said Stringer, noting that he strives to help students become involved with real world projects and area companies.  "This shows them where their education plays a role in the development of PM knowledge, and introduces them to a lot of opportunity to be a part of that development."


Powell said he is excited about the opportunities he has had, and looks forward to his future career.  However, he remains humble about his accomplishment, crediting those around him for supporting him in his efforts.  Powell said, "I have to thank my wife, kids, and Dr. Stringer.  My wife has enabled me to do my work at the level that I do, and both she and my kids have sacrificed husband and dad for student. 


"Dr. Stringer has provided me with opportunities and guidance that he was not required to. He does this for all students, and I'm just one of those students." 


Stringer will travel with Powell to the conference in Nashville, along with one other student in the General Engineering degree program, whose conference registration will be covered by campus funds.

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