On April 14, 2023, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will hold just the third investiture ceremony for the formal installation of a new chancellor in its 175-year history. And during this unique, celebratory event, the university will bestow a special medallion, created by two mechanical engineering undergraduate students, on Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin.
Students Dylan Zinkgraf and Teekay Kowalewski started working on the medallion as an extracurricular project in fall 2022, as they were taking MS&E 461: Advanced Metal Casting.
“A big part of the draw was the opportunity to directly apply concepts that we were learning in MS&E 461, such as design for manufacturing processes, to a real project and gain relevant experience,” says Zinkgraf, a fifth-year student from Appleton, Wisconsin.
The students overcame a variety of challenges to complete the project. To start with, they needed to transform two-dimensional images of the artwork into a full 3D design for the medallion and its intricate features.
Zinkgraf spent many hours using SOLIDWORKS design software and other tools to create a highly detailed 3D model of the medallion.
In considering various types of casting methods for making the medallion, the students decided on an investment casting process that they could execute themselves in the engineering foundry located in the Materials Science and Engineering Building. Then the students 3D-printed a test pattern in the college’s makerspace and created a ceramic mold.
But they were disappointed with the results when they cast the medallion out of aluminum. Some fine details in the artwork, such as the rays above the eye (aka the Numen Lumen), were lost or didn’t appear as they should on the medallion.
Still the students persevered. “We discovered some of the limitations with this casting process,” Zinkgraf says. “We had to regroup and figure out a new approach for casting the medallion.”
They discussed the issues with Kyle Metzloff, a professor of industrial studies at UW-Plateville, an honorary associate in materials science and engineering at UW-Madison, and instructor for the students’ advanced metal casting course.
Metzloff recommended changing the material and casting method, and suggested partnering with Valiant Enterprises, a Madison, Wisconsin, company that specializes in pewter castings with fine details, to do the casting. In the process, Kowalewski and Zinkgraf got to tour the company’s facility and receive feedback on their project. Valiant then used the students’ 3D-printed patterns to make the molds and cast the final pewter medallion, which is 4 inches in diameter.
In all, Kowalewski and Zinkgraf completed 10 iterations of the medallion design, worked with two different casting processes, and made many 3D-printed patterns. After all that work, the students say they’re very happy with the final product. And after the investiture ceremony, Chancellor Mnookin will wear the medallion at commencement, convocation and other events requiring academic regalia.
“It will be really exciting to be at commencement and see the chancellor wearing the medallion that we made,” says Kowalewski, a sophomore. “We wanted to make a contribution to campus that would have a lasting impact, and we achieved that with this project.”
Featured image caption: Mechanical Engineering undergraduate students Teekay Kowalewski (left) and Dylan Zinkgraf (right) present Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin with a larger-scale, recast version of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Numen Lumen medallion during a meeting with the Chancellor in her Bascom Hall office on April 6, 2023. The two undergraduate students made the medallion to celebrate Chancellor Mnookin’s investiture on April 14. Photo: Jeff Miller/UW-Madison.