Materials Engineers Win National Contest

SOCORRO, N.M. August 29, 2011 – Three students in the Materials Engineering Department won $500 in the 2011 Materials Radio Podcast competition by ASM: The Materials Information Society.

Kat Mireles, (from left) Amanda Kuker and Sara Waters won $500 from ASM: The Materials Society for a song they wrote and recorded about corrosion.  Photo courtesy of Dr. David Burleigh

Kat Mireles, Amanda Kuker and Sara Waters wrote lyrics and recorded “Brown Nails,” a song that laments how shiny hardware turns brown and rusty.

Mireles graduated in May 2011 and is now in a graduate program at Washington State University. Kuker is a senior and Waters is a graduate student.

Waters and Kuker said they were surprised to find out that they had won the contest.

“I was very shocked and excited,” Kuker said.

Waters said that she called her friends and said, “Hey, you remember that ridiculous rap I did months ago? Well, it won.”

Faculty advisor Dr. David Burleigh was impressed with the effort the girls put into the contest and equally proud of them for winning.

“I don’t know of any other songs about corrosion. It was really clever,” Burleigh said.

Burleigh said that the women at first refused to let him use the song in any of his classes until after they had all graduated. Since they won the contest, they have changed their tune, and allowed him to use it.  He was impressed with the students’ enthusiasm for both the contest and their discipline.

“They enjoy their studies and enjoy what they do,” he said. “They all worked together and they really just pulled [the song] together quickly.”

All three of the women are dedicated to engineering and to materials. Waters earned her bachelor’s in physics and math from the University of Florida. She considered law school, with an eye toward patent law.

“I spent time around a lawyer and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” Waters said. “I realized that spending my life without calculations or lab time would make me sad. I looked at engineering and saw that materials applies physics and chemistry. I felt like materials engineering drew well from my background .”

Kuker started her college career at Amarillo Community College in her hometown. She was among the first group of ACC students to transfer to Tech under the cooperative agreement signed between the two institutions in 2008.

“I was in mechanical engineering, but I took Materials 202 and I liked how much more I wanted to do materials engineering. It’s more physical.”

Per the contest parameters, the song had to deal with an issue related to materials engineering and be geared toward future scientists – middle school students.

Kuker, who formerly worked as a teacher’s aide in her hometown of Amarillo, offered up some current lingo and youthful slang, which Waters worked into a rap.

The trio expects to use the winnings to help fund the club’s 49’ers parade float and club activities, with the remainder going toward student travel.

Kuker developed the theme and wrote the verses and chorus; Waters put together a rap. The song includes references to ASM International and to the New Mexico Tech campus chapter. They even managed to work “oxidation” into a rhyme scheme.  The podcast will eventually be linked to the ASM Foundation website, but for now one can hear it on Dr. Burleigh’s website.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech