Passing the Torch

Standardization News

Passing the Torch

Alan Earls

Learn how to attract the next generation of standards developers to your technical committee's work through these success stories.

An oft-quoted maxim says that if you give someone a fish you may feed them for a day, but if you teach them how to fish you feed them for a lifetime. ASTM technical committees are taking this to heart in reaching out to the next generation - today's students, who will create and use standards in the future.

Many committees put this into practice by working with students in their related technical area of study through paper competitions, scholarships, university outreach visits and more.

Invite Students to Meetings

Members of Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices recognize that students are eager to learn about and dive into the industry. That's according to ASTM F24 staff manager Katerina Koperna. And, as a result, F24 has started a student initiative. "We have regular student attendees at our meetings. The students are attending from various college programs and participate in task group meetings," explains Koperna. So they have worked to create a program where these students can participate in committee activity more regularly and take on leadership roles.

Similarly, Committee G01 on Corrosion of Metals regularly works with universities local to their November meetings and invites students and professors to join their gatherings. Sankara Papavinasam, Ph.D., CorrMagnet Consulting Inc., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and chair of Subcommittee G01.11 on Electrochemical Techniques, says students are also invited to attend the group's meetings. "We had one such good meeting in Atlanta in November 2012, during which students and their professor from Georgia Institute of Technology attended and interacted with committee members. We had a lively discussion for about two hours and students were encouraged to ask questions and to provide thoughts on committee activities," says Papavinasam. On the following day, GIT organized an informal luncheon meeting in their facility for committee members and students. The members then spent about three hours talking with students and visiting their laboratories. The committee chairman even donated ASTM books on corrosion to the school.

Going forward, G01 plans to continue such interactions during their November committee meetings whenever and wherever possible, says Papavinasam.

Give a Scholarship or Award

Some committees have become stewards of scholarships - an important assist for recipients and a powerful tool for drawing student attention. For instance, in the past, Committee C09 on Concrete and Concrete Aggregates has given the Bryant and Katharine Mather Scholarship as well as a student contribution award. At the moment, notes John J. Schemmel, Ph.D., P.E., FACI, professor and director of the Concrete Industry Management Program at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, and a C09 member-at-large, the scholarship program is idle due to insufficient funds. For now, as an alternative activity, Schemmel says he is trying to propose a more formal system whereby subcommittees reach out to the students. Representatives from ASTM also came to speak to his students in the past when he was at Valparaiso University, he says.

Another committee that awards a scholarship is Committee E04 on Metallography, which runs the Mary R. Norton Scholarship Award for Women. Established in 1975, the Norton Scholarship encourages female college seniors or first-year graduate students to pursue the study of physical metallurgy or materials science, with an emphasis on the relationship between microstructure and properties. The most recent recipient is Chelsea Ehlert, an ASTM student member and a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

Although not a cash award, Committee E07 on Nondestructive Testing provides another academic honor in the form of the Noah A. Kahn Award, which is presented annually to a graduating student of the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and to another from Lehigh University. The students are chosen for performance in metallurgical engineering or related materials aspects. The award commemorates Noah A. Kahn, a member of Committee E07 on Nondestructive Testing and for many years head metallurgist of the Materials Laboratory at the New York Naval Shipyard.

Hold a Paper Competition

Meanwhile, ASTM Committee E08 on Fatigue and Fracture has, for many years, had a Student Paper Competition, usually held at their November meeting each year. This "friendly competition" started as E08's effort to entice university engineering and science students to present their research efforts in a professional setting, says M.R. Mitchell, Ph.D., president, Mechanics and Materials Consulting LLC, Flagstaff, Arizona, and past E08 committee chairman. It provides students with a forum to be introduced to a peer group that provides meaningful critiques of their research and presentations. That peer group judges their technical research subject, professional poise, ability to convey clearly the organization of their research project, the approach taken, the results and their conclusions. The winner receives a $100.00 cash award and a certificate of their accomplishment.

"To further encourage and help students in these yearly presentations, ASTM E08 provides financial support for travel expenses, room and board to these students to participate in these Student Paper Competitions. And, we also offer free memberships in E08 to all students interested in fatigue and fracture," adds Mitchell.

Additional Strategies

Claudia V. Kropas-Hughes, Ph.D., is technical adviser in the Program Development and Integration Directorate, part of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, and she is chair of Committee E07 on Nondestructive Testing. She says a focus on the next generation is part of the strategic plan in the E07 committee member handbook. "One specific objective of the committee is to keep and increase membership and also to specifically target students and faculty at institutions with active NDT programs. So, we are really looking for the next generation. What we have done regarding that is every few years we send letters to all the academic institutions that we know have NDT programs and invite them to look more closely at ASTM since it offers student memberships and access to standards. We send out letters to remind them that, especially in the NDT field, ASTM is active and our standards are a resource," she says.

Committees D10 on Packaging and F02 on Flexible Barrier Packaging are also working to involve students in committee work. In April, they held a workshop on career development in the packaging industry at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing, Michigan, in conjunction with their standards development meetings. The workshop was followed by a tour and student poster presentation at the Michigan State University School of Packaging. The poster presentations provided insight into emerging developments in packaging.

For ASTM International, outreach to students - embodied in a student membership category that is now more than a decade old - represents an investment in the future of the organization and its role in the marketplace of tomorrow. And the role of the committees and subcommittees in making this a reality has many exemplars.

ASTM student membership is free.

Alan Earls is a writer and author who covers business and technology topics for newspapers, magazines and websites. He is based near Boston, Massachusetts.

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