Ten students each built model rockets out of carbon fiber for WSU's Components of Composites course.

Course Helps Utah Residents Piece Together Potential Composites Careers

Thanks to a partnership between WSU, Davis Technical College and Hill Aerospace Museum, a few more composites careers could be about to take off. 

Ten students completed WSU’s Components of Composites course this March, where their work culminated in building a model rocket out of carbon fiber. Behind the creation of that rocket, though, was a thorough introduction to the composites industry. For just $50, thanks to a Learn & Work grant, students received a crash course in composites creation: six hours a week for eight weeks. 

Course instructor Briana Colon said she included information from every part of the composites process, inclinding cutting materials, preparing a mold, putting resin and fibers together, curing the part, removing the part from the mold, sanding and adding finish. Students also got an idea of how large machinery works. They learned about prepreg materials, vacuum infusions, wet layup and other magical-sounding components that result in items from golf clubs to waterskis to airplane wings. 

Colon brought a wealth of knowledge to the table, having completed a composites program from Davis Technical College. Her two roles in composites since have included working on fiberglass train parts, making paper production panels for a paper mill and bonding warhead bodies together. She has been teaching composites at Davis Tech for more than two years. 

"It fascinates me how people have figured out how to make such strong things faster, easier and cheaper," she said. “Plus, some of the parts come out beautiful. Adding a carbon fiber skin to a part is a fast way to add visual interest, and some filament-wound carbon fiber tubes have intricate geometric patterns on their surface that are almost mesmerizing.”

Participants in the course included an engineer, 3-D artists and a recent high school graduate who was invited to apply for a composite technician job. Industry members from Hill Air Force Base and Albany Engineered Composites spoke during the course.

Now, they’ve built more than a rocket — they’ve built a foundation for a career. 

“A person entering the composites industry could expect to start as a composites technician, gain experience by doing different projects and advance or specialize from there,” Colon said. 

With companies and organizations like Hill Air Force Base, Northrup Grumman, Orbital ATK, Advanced Composites, Albany and others recently hiring composites technicians, northern Utah is the perfect place to put a composites career together.