Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Away from my desk

This week has been a definite anomaly, in that I've spent more time in a lab than at a desk. Being that I'm a computationalist, generally speaking, my desk *is* my lab. However, I'm TAing the junior level lab course for the department, and between the lab this week and training and prep for next week, I've mostly been in the lab getting nice and gritty.

The students this week get to see casting up close and personal, generally for the first time. Last week, they carved foam parts, which we mounts to runners at the foundry before making a sand mold. This method is called "lost foam" (though more generally it's lost wax, but we're using foam...), and you actually leave the pattern in the sand. Then, when you pour the metal, it burns up.

I'd forgotten how much I loved poking around the machine shop, but more than that, I'd forgotten how jazzed I get when I'm teaching. As the TA with the most prior casting experience, and with the professor out of town, I've taken point for this lab (though my first formal lecture isn't for another two weeks). I find teaching super-energizing, to the point where Mr.ME gets annoyed with how bouncy I am when I get home.

Because GiantU, unlike SnowTech, does not have an on-site foundry, we had to drive to the site, which was a fun chance to talk to students in a less formal setting. I also took the chance to ask them about how my advisor is as a teacher (answer: much better than he is as an advisor). He's even teaching one of the harder courses in the curriculum, so it's all the more impressive. Of course, it's still before the first exam, so they may yet change their minds.

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