Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Interview with the MNE Judges

Two of our MNE Innovation Competition judges took some time out of their day to talk about their participation on the judges' panel and the importance of innovation in engineering.

MNE department: What made you particularly interested in sitting on the judges' panel for the Innovation Competition?

Marty Trethewey: My motivation was to promote innovation within the student body. This is a chance to give students opportunities to explore innovation, to take their ideas and move them forward.

MNE: Why is innovation important to an engineering curriculum and to the engineering mindset?

Hosam Fathy: I think it is very important to recognize that the biggest contributions that engineering has made to the welfare of mankind have come from radical shifts in thinking, rather than iterative, incremental enhancements of existing ideas. We can--and definitely should--teach students the process of polishing existing engineering systems to make them safer, more efficient, more durable, and less expensive. Beyond this "better mousetrap" mindset, though, we need to give them the freedom to radically shift human thinking. To quote Steve Jobs, we need to give these students the freedom to "make a dent in the universe."

MNE: What is your role as an MNE Innovation Competition judge?

Trethewey: During the contest, my role was to evaluate the students' proposals and provide them with some guidance as to how to be successful. Now, as the competition moves forward, I'll be available as a sounding board for their ideas and their organization to hopefully get them to a successful conclusion.

Fathy: My role is to do everything in my ability to help these students succeed. My hope is that I can help these students without stifling their creativity.

MNE: What role has innovation played in your career?

Trethewey: Innovation has always played a major role in my career, particularly during my industrial experience where trying to create products and items that the public wanted was very critical. You have to try to separate your ideas from the competition. Innovation is key to the American economy, and that's something we as Americans do the best. We need to instill that in our current students.

Fathy: It would be very arrogant of me to claim that I, myself, am an innovator. I have, however, been fortunate to learn from the creative and innovative work of others. Perhaps the biggest source of pride in my career is the fact that some of the most innovative people I have met in my life are my own students. It makes me very proud to think of every occasion on which my own thinking changed radically because of my students' work.

Marty Trethewey is the Arthur L. Glenn Professor in Mechanical Engineering and the Professor-in-Charge of Undergraduate Programs in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. He holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. A member of the Penn State faculty since 1982, Trethewey's research interests include experimental technique development, signal processing, experimental modal analysis, structural modeling and analysis, noise control, and product design.

Hosam Fathy is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the MNE department, a title he has held since 2010. Previously, he was an assistant research scientist and founder of the Control Optimization Lab at the University of Michigan, where he also earned his Ph.D. He holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering from Kansas State University and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the American University in Cairo, Egypt. Fathy's research interests include control-oriented modeling of health degradation in advanced batteries; battery health-conscious optimal power management in sustainable energy systems; networked hardware-in-the-loop simulation of sustainable energy systems.

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