Butler partners with local composites industry to build better education


For Butler Community College, staying at the forefront of its technology programs is a mandate. With the college’s Andover-based Advanced Technology Center, there are constant updates and innovations necessary to keep programs like information technology, 3D animation design and composites engineering in step with the local industry.

To that end, Butler’s lead composites technology instructor Rod Brown recently completed an internship at Leading Edge Aerospace in Wichita, sponsored by a grant from the Kansas Board of Regents.  During this internship, Brown’s goal was to take away skills related to a process called resin transfer molding (RTM) that he could return to the classroom with and share with his students.

The ultimate goal of the internship, Brown said, was to learn the processes for RTM through designing and machining molds to fabricate a uniquely shaped walking cane. Working with Leading Edge – an industry partner equally interested in learning more about this process – Brown began his research and began running fabrication tests.

“We began learning the RTM process and testing the process using a small section of the cane,” Brown said. “We made the mold, then fabricated several small sections using different materials and pressures. The results were excellent so I built a full-size mold and we were able to fabricate a high-quality cane on the second attempt.”

Now, Brown said, he’ll take what he’s learned into the classroom, where he already discusses the RTM process with students; now he’ll be able to demonstrate it. With a demo mold made from this internship’s experience, he expects to give students a more hands-on lesson in RTM that will encourage educated discussion on the practice.

“The internship opportunity provided through Butler Community College was great,” said Stan Unruh, Leading Edge owner and president. “It gave us an opportunity to work on a project that has been on our ‘wish list’ for several months.  The test results were excellent, and will allow us to take the project to the next phase.”

Brown said he hopes to continue this partnership – and others like it – working toward his next goal of making aluminum production molds. 



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