Q&A with IYRS Alum and Faculty Member Cass D'Amico

Q&A with IYRS Alum and Faculty Member Cass D'Amico


What first brought you to IYRS?

In 2020 I was working for a submarine manufacturer but the work was very physically demanding (imagine using a fire hose that shot sand rather than water, to remove rust from a submarine..then shoveling sand and metal for hours to clean up.) My stepmom suggested looking into IYRS. Even though I’m from North Kingstown, I’d never heard of the school. 

Without really specific goals but knowing I needed to do something new, I started IYRS’s Composites Technology program. Through the program, I discovered I had a knack and passion for computer aided design (CAD). That was my favorite part. That’s why I came back and took IYRS’s Digital Modeling program.”

How did you end up becoming a faculty member?

The previous program manager was leaving while I was a digital modeling student and I was really good at RHINO and I didn’t want to leave the school. I harassed (Dean of Students) Bill (Kenyon) about it a lot. 

My persistence paid off. I did an independent learning project in lieu of a Digital Modeling & Fabrication externship - teaching RHINO to incoming students – and was hired as a Program Assistant - Composites Technology from there, teaching CAD skills that are used in both Composites and DMF. 

What do you think makes someone a good fit to be an IYRS student?

Tinkerers make great IYRS students. Curiosity. Wanting to know how things work. Wanting to work with your hands. People who like to work in groups. Students who don’t feel like they fit in a normal classroom - that’s how I ended up here. 

What is something you see students struggle with…and what are some tips for overcoming it?

Book work, and in my classes, CAD. A lot of people choose IYRS because they want to work with their hands and don’t want to be in books much  – but we teach the science so students understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. Some of that may be through book learning. When a lot of students think of trade school they think they’re not going to spend a lot of time on a computer but modern manufacturing typically uses CAD/CAM, 3D modeling and CNC programming – so it’s important they understand that side of it. 

If you could be something other than a faculty member at IYRS, what would you be?

I would love to do product development with CAD - just designing and modeling. 

What’s something you wish people knew about composites?

I think people don’t know the extent to which composites has sprawled. It’s very much getting away from the marine industry – I personally don’t have an interest in the marine industry. I’m more interested in applying composites technology to the aerospace and energy fields. 

What are some of your hobbies?

When I first arrived as a student, I was really into street art. I like turning art into stickers and dispersing them. I used to trade with other sticker artists around the world. So, I have stickers in public in Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand…probably over 40 countries. We would just trade and mail each other our stickers and connect internationally about this medium that we all loved so much. 

What were some of your favorite projects from your time as an IYRS student?

The table is a basic press fit table, CNC'd on our 3-axis router. David [Riley, DMF lead instructor] still assigns this project. I definitely was supposed to make a stool but I bent the rules because I wanted a table instead.

The skateboard trucks were a team effort with Sheila Reagan 23', Jackson Gleason 23' and Elena Soini 23'. We built a longboard to go with it in our free time. The trucks are an original collaborative design, 3D printed with our Markforged printer with carbon fiber laid into the print.

Side table hexigons stacked


Skateboard trucks - black with blue wheels


Have you lived anywhere other than North Kingstown where you’re from?

It’s funny for not having an interest in maritime, but I briefly lived on a boat in Alaska. I was a deckhand on a small cruise ship that actually anchors outside of Fort Adams now. I started in Seattle and did the Southeastern Passage and was all over Southeast Alaska.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Australia - I have a penchant for aquariums and the Sydney Aquarium is supposed to be unreal. I don’t want to be in the water or work in the water but I have a passion for aquatic life.

What’s something most people at IYRS don’t know about you?

Not much! I’m very loud.

What’s coming up next for you at IYRS?

I’m co-piloting IYRS’s first two youth skateboard summer camps. The school is using Roarockit vacuum technology skateboard kits. Through conversations with IYRS Facilities Manager Nate Farrar, we turned the skateboard build camp into a “make and skate” camp by partnering with pro skateboarder Donny Barley and adding two days of professional skateboarding instruction.

Roarockt believes in making skateboard building accessible. We’re using Roarocket’s products to vacuum press wooden skateboards together. They’re 7-ply maple boards, very traditional skateboards.

I’m also becoming a program assistant for Digital Modeling & Fabrication as well. By the end of the year, most students will have to work with me at some point - even the second year of boatbuilding & restoration students take RHINO for a week. I like working with a diverse group of students so I’m excited.