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Engineering students create medallion for chancellor’s investiture

April 6, 2023 By Adam Malecek
Mechanical Engineering undergraduate students Teekay Kowalewski (left), Jennifer Mnookin (center) and Dylan Zinkgraf (right) face the camera, standing in front of a white, neoclassical fireplace with a clock on the mantle. Kowalewski holds a 3D-printed version of the medallion. Mnookin holds the new, pewter medallion. Zinkgraf holds an aluminum rendition of the medallion.

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

The University of Wisconsin—Madison will hold an investiture ceremony on April 14 to formally install its 30th leader, Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin. And during this unique, celebratory event, the university will bestow a special medallion, created by two mechanical engineering undergraduate students, on Mnookin.

Students Dylan Zinkgraf and Teekay Kowalewski started working on the medallion as an extracurricular project in fall 2022, as they were taking Materials Science and Engineering 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 original medallion artwork into a full 3D design that would capture its intricate features.

Mechanical Engineering undergraduate students Dylan Zinkgraf (at left wearing red shirt) and Dylan Zinkgraf (at right and wearing a gray shirt) present Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin with a larger-scale, recast version of the UW medallion. The two students are sitting on a sofa in the chancellor's office. Chancellor Mnookin is sitting in a chair opposite the sofa holding the medallion.

Chancellor Mnookin met with Kowalewski and Zinkgraf in her office on April 6 to thank them for their work. The two began their extracurricular project in fall 2022 and overcame a variety of challenges to complete the medallion in time for the chancellor’s investiture. “We wanted to make a contribution to campus that would have a lasting impact, and we achieved that with this project,” says Kowalewski. Photo: Jeff Miller

Zinkgraf spent many hours using design software and other tools to create a highly detailed 3D model of the medallion.

After considering the various types of casting methods for making the medallion, Zinkgraf and Kowalewski chose an investment casting process that they could execute themselves in the foundry located in the Materials Science and Engineering Building. Before casting, they 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 (also known as the Numen Lumen), were lost or didn’t appear as they should.

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 their advanced metal casting instructor, Kyle Metzloff, a professor of industrial studies at the University of Wisconsin­–Plateville and an honorary associate in materials science and engineering at UW–Madison.

The recast pewter medallion sits on a table alongside a red 3d-printed model and another version cast in aluminum.

Kowalewski and Zinkgraf first made a 3D-printed model before casting the medallion in aluminum. They were unsatisfied with the result. With help from their instructor, Kyle Metzloff, and foundry Valiant Enterprises, the two students presented Chancellor Mnookin with a pewter-cast medallion on April 6. The medallion is sometimes displayed by the Office of the Chancellor at official university ceremonies and events, including investitures, commencements and convocations. Photo: Jeff Miller

Metzloff recommended changing both the material and the casting method, and he suggested partnering with Valiant Enterprises, a Madison company specializing in pewter castings with fine details. In the process, Kowalewski and Zinkgraf got to tour the company’s facility and receive feedback on their project. Valiant used the students’ 3D-printed patterns to make the molds and cast the final, 4-inch pewter medallion.

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.”

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