Materials Team Wins $15,000 Top Prize In Metals Contest

SOCORRO, N.M. April 29, 2010 – Three materials engineering seniors have gone professional – so to speak.

Marcus Chavez, Cory Gibson and Brendan Nation earned $15,000 in an international Clad-It Contest. Judges from two industrial companies and one professional organization deemed the Tech project to be the best idea for a clad metal.

Marcus Chavez (from left), Brendan Nation and Cory Gibson, winners of the international Clad-It Contest.

“I got a call at work about two weeks ago and I was jumping for joy,” Chavez said.

Nation said, “When we entered the competition, we didn’t consider that we would win.”

The students’ windfall came along with their first place entry in the contest, which was sponsored by German multi-national corporation Wickeder Westfalenstahl and its subsidiary Engineered Material Solutions, and a professional society, ASM International.

An official presentation will be Monday, June 14, at New Mexico Tech, with company representatives officially presenting the award to Nation, Chavez and Gibson.

“We’re hoping they give us one of those big oversized checks,” Nation said.

The second and third place winners also will attend the ceremony to pick up their prizes. The ceremony will be broadcasting on the internet via the Distance Education facilities at Tech.

Cladding is the process of rolling two different metals under such great pressure that they merge, creating a composite material. Nation said cladding is like welding, except using pressure instead of heat.

“It’s like explosive welding, but without the explosion,” Nation said. “It’s less fun, but safer.”

The Tech students’ project was ranked ahead of the second place team from City College of New York and the third place team from Iowa State University.

Chavez and Gibson are both from Los Lunas. Nation is from Marysville, Wash. They are all set to graduate this year; Chavez in May; Nation in August and Gibson in December. All three are headed to graduate school. They submitted their Senior Design class mini-project, “Magnesium Clad Titanium Acoustical Speaker Cones.”

Gibson said they selected titanium for its rigidity and magnesium for its acoustic qualities.

Nation, Gibson and Chavez pose with one of Tech's central statues. Photos by Thomas Guengerich

“This is a unique application and it has good economic potential for folks who want high-end audio speakers,” professor Dr. Deidre Hirschfeld said. “Tech students are fantastic!”

As part of the year-long Senior Design class, Hirschfeld assigns a mini-project to get the class members accustomed to completing a project. This year’s prep project was the Clad It competition. Hirschfeld gave the students the option of submitting their projects to the contest.

“We were left up to our own devices to come up with an idea,” Nation said.

Chavez, Gibson and Nation polished up their project and packaged the research in a 22-slide PowerPoint presentation. The trio put in one intensive month of work into their winning project.

First they discovered that no manufacturer is using cladded metal for high-end speaker cones. Then, Chavez said they did an extensive literature search and found that no manufacturer is currently cladding magnesium and titanium.

Their presentation included comparisons of various metals, cost estimations of their magnesium-titanium composite, compared to currently used speaker cone materials and a host of other theoretical research and existing literature.

Most high-end speaker cones involved a complex geometry incorporating two materials – a rigid material, like aluminum or titanium, carbon-fiber or even Kevlar and an acoustic material

“We can eliminate that complicated structure – just clad it and stamp it,” Nation said. “Our project involves simple manufacturing and complex engineering. Our design turns it into a flat metal geometry, so to speak.”

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By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech