Hello! My name is Reece Adams and I was the team lead of the Cryogenic Accelerated Fatigue Tester (CRAFT) team. At WSU, I obtained both my bachelor’s and master’s degree in materials science and engineering. During my time with the lab, I focused primarily on the operation of CRAFT and mechanical data acquisition of a variety of additively manufactured materials. My research focused on material and processing parameter manipulation for the improved mechanical performance of AM materials in cryogenic environments. Upon the completion of my master’s degree, I transitioned to my current role as a project engineer at Janicki Industries.
Where I Have Been
In my second semester as an undergraduate transfer, I attended an undergraduate research seminar where I was introduced to HYPER. Here, Dr. Jacob Leachman asked those in attendance what they thought of when somebody said the word, “cryogenics”. The resounding assumption was that cryogenics involved freezing people (of course this is the study of cryonics rather than cryogenics). Instead, I came to learn that cryogenics involves the study of material behavior at low temperatures. A light went on in my head when Dr. Leachman passionately iterated the status quo and future of cryogenic studies. I walked up to Jake at the conclusion of his talk to introduce myself, convey my interest, and express how my experience may benefit his lab. Shortly thereafter, I received an invite to come talk with Mathew Hunt and became the newest member of the CRAFT team.
One of the first tasks I had at HYPER was to perform Gelbo flex tests on various thin polymer films submerged in liquid nitrogen. Immediately after assuming my new role, I was able to work hands-on with these cryogens. At the time, I remember thinking how novel it was to be performing such a task and how lucky I was to be in such a niche position. Being an MSE with little CAD experience, I was later tasked with making alterations to the CAD model of the radiation shield as well as designing the buffer storage and countertop cart for CRAFT. Eventually, I was assigned as the sole undergraduate investigator on the CRAFT team. My time was spent researching O-ring seal selection for ensuring leak tight interfaces during vacuum pulldown, identifying key ASTM standards for tensile and fatigue testing polymer matrix composite materials at room and cryogenic temperatures, and drafting the testing procedures themselves. Towards the end of my undergraduate research, I was able to present CRAFT to industry representatives at a handful of in-house tours as well as host lab-wide workshops on bonding strain gages to composite tensile test samples.
In addition to my HYPER technical assistantship, I maintained a technical position for the first semester and an internship for the remaining time. In that first semester, I worked at the Composite Materials and Engineering Center off-campus. Here, I was conducting various stress tests on composite wood paneling samples. I would also facilitate with wood-plastic composite extrusion and layup of the wood composite panels onto a room-sized hydraulic mold press. At the end of this first semester, an internship application I had submitted to Unitech Composites was accepted, I resigned my position at CMEC, and I put a pause on HYPER for the Summer.
My Unitech Composites internship was unique in that it not only employed me full-time during the Summers of 2019 and 2020, but I was able to work remotely part-time during the entire academic year. I could go on and on about all the things I learned at Unitech, but to cut down on length, I will name the big takeaways. In this internship, I was paired with a new product introduction engineer and my major role was to draft the regional manufacturing plans for the entire manufacturing process of countless aerospace components. I also curated a variety of in-house mechanical testing plans to verify the structural performance of incoming layup material in addition to carrying out the tests themselves. I attribute a vast majority of my composite material manufacturing understanding to Unitech Composites. In the last semester of my bachelor’s degree, I was provided the opportunity to become a research assistant at HYPER. Therefore, I resigned from Unitech to focus on my graduate school transition.
Conclusion and Future
I was able to complete my master’s degree and successfully defend my master’s thesis between Spring ’21 and Spring ’22. During that time, I was the acting lead of the CRAFT team. I used what I had learned from my predecessor, Mathew Hunt, to hit the ground running as soon as I took over. I had samples ordered and mounted, my committee formed, and a plan of action all by the end of that first semester. The plan for my master’s thesis changed, but I was very satisfied with the final product. My resultant thesis involved the mechanical data acquisition of additively manufactured materials in liquid hydrogen. I tested dozens of samples at 20K and obtained a reportable dataset that I am sure will be of use as research on the matter progresses. Through my research, I was able to begin to fill the void that exists with the mechanical properties of AM materials at cryogenic temperatures.
I was also given the opportunity to act as grad student/safety lead for the latter half of my research assistantship. Through the many successes and mistakes along the way, I learned so much about professionalism, safety, and the technical knowledge it takes to be an engineer.
Originally, I had aspirations to continue with my academic pursuits by striving for a Ph.D. upon the completion of my master’s degree. I was the click of a mouse away from submitting fellowship applications for the acquisition of funding for a Ph.D. However, I thankfully came to the decision to transition into industry after I completed my master’s degree. I attribute this decision heavily to lab management, for if not for them, I may not have identified what was right for me at the time. At some point, I would like to obtain a Ph.D., but at this time, I am very much looking forward to the professional growth and development that a transition in workflow will provide.
Though my time at HYPER has come to an end, I look forward to seeing the direction HYPER takes in the future. During my time, I learned that although my reasons for joining HYPER were not as fundamental as my colleagues, what I possess is a passion for materials science. Observing the challenge associated with implementing materials in harsh environments and the lack of literature present on doing so envigorated me to contribute. The opportunity to work with state-of-the-art processing methods and materials testing equipment with a level of autonomy was rare. I am beyond thankful for the experience.
If I were to describe my time through a story-arch of three achievements, it would be as follows:
- Established a fundamental understanding of cryogenic systems and testing methods through undergraduate research projects and publication of CRAFT CEC paper
- Acted as safety/grad student-lead, promoting the improvement of safety lab wide and the continuous improvement of safety practices
- Lead CRAFT with a significant level of data acquisition efficiency, producing an effective and valuable master’s thesis and cumulative publication to the journal of AM
In my final semester, I was able to obtain a job offer from Janicki Industries in Hamilton, Washington. Given my previous internship experience at Unitech Composites and my leadership experience at HYPER, I fit the bill as an incoming project engineer. I am very much looking forward to utilizing the skillset obtained at the HYPER lab in this next chapter of my professional career. Thank you for everything HYPER!!!