Hello! My name is Reece Adams and I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in materials science and engineering at Washington State University. I received my bachelor’s degree in MSE at WSU after having transferred from Spokane Falls Community College. I am now working alongside Mathew Hunt as a research assistant on the commissioning of the Cryogenic Accelerated Fatigue Tester (CRAFT). In the coming months, I will be taking over CRAFT to initiate my own research as it relates to the advancement of 3D printed polymer matrix composite materials.
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.
Where I am headed
Now that I can dedicate most of my time to CRAFT, I am extremely excited to initiate my own research efforts. The system that Mathew and many undergraduates are leaving behind is what I plan to utilize in my research going forth. For the time being, I am working alongside Mathew Hunt to ensure that CRAFT is commissioned and obtaining accurate data at room and cryogenic temperatures. Once complete, I can proceed with the collection of data for my own thesis. In the scope of a master’s thesis, I intend to focus on the characterization and eventual optimization of the gen 2 tank composite materials. There exists little information on the cryogenic mechanical properties of composites produced by means of additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing in the scope of cryogenic applications is of interest in that it is cost efficient and able to achieve complex part geometries. I hope to fill this void in understanding thereby enhancing a manufacturing method in terms of mechanical response. Beyond that, I have yet to commit to the decision to embark down the route of a Ph.D., although most definitely not ruled out. Regardless, be on the lookout for research coming from CRAFT!