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30 Under 30: Recognizing the Future Leaders of Manufacturing (Sponsored by Markforged)

Candace Roulo
By Candace Roulo Managing Editor, SME Media
By James D. Sawyer Editor in Chief, SME Media


Manufacturing Engineering’s 2018 Class of 30 Under 30 honorees are in a class all their own. This is the sixth year Manufacturing Engineering is recognizing 30 individuals under the age of 30 that are leading the manufacturing industry into the future. These individuals exemplify extraordinary promise in manufacturing and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills that underpin the discipline, plus much more.

“This year’s Class of 30 Under 30 is a very impressive group,” said Manufacturing Engineering editor emeritus Jim Sawyer, who conducted interviews and wrote the individual profiles of the 30 Under 30 honorees. “It’s great to see such an outstanding and diverse group of people being showcased for their accomplishments and talents in the manufacturing industry.”

From professors and researchers to CEOs, entrepreneurs, and machine shop managers, this year’s 30 Under 30 honorees have many accomplishments to be proud of—they are truly making a difference in the manufacturing industry.

Many of the honorees knew from a young age that they wanted to work in manufacturing and engineering. But for some honorees their interest blossomed when they were exploring completely different career paths.

For example, Amberlee Haselhuhn, a researcher for General Motors Co. based in Warren, MI, has a bachelor’s of science degree and doctorate in materials science engineering as well as a bachelor’s of science degree in biomedical engineering, but she first set out to become a doctor. “I originally wanted to be a medical doctor when I started my undergraduate education in biomedical engineering, but after spending time shadowing a doctor, I realized this really wasn’t for me,” Haselhuhn said. “Around the same time, I was required to take an introduction to materials science course and absolutely loved it, so I added a BS in materials science and engineering.”

Another honoree, Maeve Guilfoyle, set out to study one of her loves—music—but when she started taking college music courses she had a change of heart. She decided to take a break from music classes and took a job at Takumi Precision Engineering in Limerick, Ireland, on a six-month contract. Guilfoyle spends two days a week on her studies at the Limerick Institute of Technology and the other three days working at the precision component manufacturer.

Workforce Development
This year’s 30 Under 30 honorees are dedicated to manufacturing workforce development. Many are working with elementary and middle school children to introduce them to making things while other honorees are working with high school students. Many of the honorees are mentors, too.

For example, Andrew Makepeace, material research engineer for Greenleaf Corp., (Saegertown, PA), has led hands-on workshops for fourth and fifth graders as well giving demonstrations to second graders during an elementary school science week in Oxford, OH. He also assisted with an all-day hands-on experience for children and adults during Nanoscience Day at the Cincinnati Museum Center. He helps with Greenleaf’s involvement in a materials science experience for high schoolers too. “I try to be a mentor in any way that I can be,” said Makepeace.

Chenhui Shao, an assistant professor for the University of Illinois (UI) Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, and an advisor of four UI PhD students and several undergrad researchers, is helping with student outreach activities. “Since joining the University of Illinois in 2016, I have been actively designing and leading outreach activities for students from K-12 and underrepresented groups.”

Also, William I. McCall, a manufacturing engineer for AKG North American Operations (Durham, NC), not only finds time to be a judge at district and state high school science fairs, he is also developing a science mentor program in a local school district and is a tour leader for the Career Advancement Program apprenticeship program, introducing high school students to manufacturing.

Women in Manufacturing

The 30 Under 30 women honorees are rising to the top of the manufacturing industry, and they are inspiring women of the next generation to pursue a career in the industry.

Co-founder and CEO of Bridgr (Montreal), Amira Boutouchent, is a mentor to Bridgr’s female employees and she takes part in STEM mentoring programs. Also, Boutouchent wants to make manufacturing jobs evolve in the right direction. She arranged for Bridgr to be the presenting sponsor of the Advanced Manufacturing Zone at this year’s Expo Entrepreneur event in Montreal.

Melinda Dean, a technical manager overseeing manufacturing engineers for Pratt & Whitney (East Hartford, CT), coordinates $15 million in capital expenditures and oversees the Lean transformation of a 90,000 ft2 (8360 m2) manufacturing area.

“I was not exactly sure what career in engineering I wanted to pursue,” said Dean. “Having the ability to speak to others about their experiences and the opportunities that were available was a valuable experience. So, when there is a chance to be a mentor I am happy to say ‘yes’ because I know how beneficial having a mentor has been to me.”

Thanks To 30 Under 30 Nominators

A special thanks goes out to all the industry professionals who nominated individuals for the 2018 Class of 30 Under 30. These individuals have been working in the manufacturing industry for years and they know what it takes—dedication, initiative, innovation, perseverance, grit, and a strong STEM skill set—to be considered as an honoree.

These attributes, along with giving back to the community, involvement in workforce development initiatives, and encouraging younger generations to study STEM subjects and pursue their interest in manufacturing, set nominees apart.

All the nominations Manufacturing Engineering received were truly impressive. Congratulations to all honorees and honorable mentions.

30 Under 30 Honorees

Ryan J. Bigler, Age: 30

Boeing, Renton, WA


It’s no surprise that a manufacturing engineer who helps Boy Scouts earn merit badges in Aviation and Space Exploration would draw consideration as a 30 Under 30 honoree. And there is more to Ryan Bigler than that.

This Eagle Scout has spent the last five years working on Boeing’s 737 platform. For the last two years he’s been in the Production Engineering Rotation Program, said Lisa Godsil, build integration manager for 737 Interiors. During his three-month stint in the Equipment Engineering rotation, said Godsil, Bigler led a team tasked with replacing end-of-life equipment. Many areas of improvement were identified, including labor, cost, and material savings. Safety and ergonomic benefits were also realized.

Upon completing the Rotation Program last December, Bigler was chosen by the production engineering chief engineer to lead a new Innovation Cell supporting 737 final assembly. In this role, Bigler is responsible for documenting new required processes and roles and responsibilities for engineers who rotate through the cell. He works directly with manufacturing, tool design, and design engineers to develop solutions to problems that arise. In the three-plus months the cell has been open, it has completed 15 projects under Bigler’s leadership. Another 24 projects are in the works.

In many cases, new parts or tooling is needed for the projects. Bigler creates the 3D designs and runs the printers as well. He is a hands-on manufacturing engineer.

“In college I learned to love machine tools,” he said,” and taught manual and CNC machining to younger students.” And that’s exactly what an Eagle Scout would do.

Amira Boutouchent, Age: 28

Bridgr, Montreal, QC, Canada


Co-founder and CEO of Bridgr, Amira Boutouchent was introduced to manufacturing by her father, who founded his own tech company more than 20 years ago. His firm creates new technology solutions for manufacturers.

Bridgr also helps manufacturers find solutions, in this case the experts and technologies that will help a specific company grow and digitize its operations. Bridgr provides tools that assist manufacturers in identifying which technology is best for their operations, employees and development.

“Our team has a unique sense of the industry,” Boutouchent said. “We help manufacturers reduce the time it takes to find qualified experts and Industry 4.0 technology providers and we offer them a working platform to manage projects, budgets and deliverables.”

Boutouchent has a bachelor’s in engineering from Algeria’s Ecole Superieure d’informatique and a master’s of science in business administration and management from HEC Montreal.

Boutouchent hopes to be able to make manufacturing jobs evolve in the right direction. To that end, she arranged for Bridgr to be the presenting sponsor of the Advanced Manufacturing Zone at this year’s Expo Entrepreneur event in Montreal. She also takes part in STEM mentoring programs and serves as a mentor to Bridgr’s female employees.

STEM has been a constant theme in Boutouchent’s life, as both her parents have medical degrees. Her father was a practicing physician before deciding to form his technology company. “My mom is an amazing doctor,” Boutouchent said,” and got herself into top management of her hospital.”

Renee Brotzki, Age: 27

Crown Equipment Corp., New Bremen, OH


Renee Brotzki has turned her interests into a career. “I have always loved making things and understanding how things work,” Brotzki said. “However, I did not consider manufacturing as a career until my internship at Crown Equipment during my second year of college.” As an intern she “was responsible for updating facility layouts, which provided exposure to many of the company’s manufacturing facilities and processes. It really inspired me to want to learn more.”

Between the time of her internship and now, Brotzki was named the Outstanding Junior in Mechanical Engineering at University of Dayton; received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in sustainability, energy and the environment; earned a master of science degree in mechanical engineering with a focus on design and manufacturing; and joined Crown as a manufacturing engineer.

Her role is to lead and support multiple manufacturing projects. Among her accomplishments is creating a manufacturing strategy for an international multi-facility campus that will encourage future growth, new products and improved logistics and equipment use.

According to her colleagues, Brotzki stands out through her emphasis on team participation and willingness to learn. She is deliberative, curious, and decisive, and she communicates her positions skillfully and fully.

Brotzki attributes her approach to her career to her parents. “While they are not in the manufacturing field, they showed me how rewarding performing quality work can be,” she said.

Another thing she finds rewarding is improving the environment. She is part of a group at Crown that works with University of Dayton to direct graduate students in real-world design projects aimed at benefitting the environment.

Michael Brundage, Age: 30

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Gaithersburg, MD


Michael Brundage understands that research powers manufacturing. “Mike is a passionate researcher, mentor and community contributor,” wrote Penn State Engineering Professor Soundar R.T. Kumara in nominating Michael Brundage. “Among his many skills is his ability to work with and motivate others toward pursuing research that will advance the field of manufacturing as a whole.”

The numbers back Kumara up. Brundage is listed as principal author or co-author in seven journal articles. He is also the principal in seven articles in conference proceedings and co-author in another five. Additionally, he has received two NSF travel grants and was honored as a Best Paper Finalist by ASME.

As an industrial engineer with NIST, Brundage has built a framework for a knowledge-based diagnosis system for intelligent maintenance as well as used machine learning techniques to predict manufacturing problems based on observed failures.

While at Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, NY) working on his MS and PhD, Brundage served as a research assistant and teaching assistant. He also created a course that provided engineering experience to female high school seniors. He is continuing his mentoring while at NIST.

“Currently,” wrote Kumara, “Michael is mentoring one of my students, Michael Hoffman, in his PhD studies and is aiding Hoffman in learning about manufacturing production scheduling and intelligent maintenance as a PhD committee member.”

Brundage “always enjoyed math and science as a child.” He decided to major in mechanical engineering while in high school. “I felt drawn to the real-world problems in manufacturing” while in grad school, he said, “and performing manufacturing research meant new solutions could solve these problems.”

Melinda Dean, Age: 29

Pratt & Whitney, East Hartford, CT


Melinda Dean is a person on the move.

As an engineering undergrad at Loyola University in Baltimore, she interned at a consulting engineering firm in London. After graduation she joined another consulting firm in Danbury, CT.

Two years later she was selected for the United Technologies Operations Leadership Program, which saw her join Pratt & Whitney (East Hartford, CT) for her first rotation. Her second rotation was in San Diego. She completed the program in North Berwick, ME.

This led to her first “permanent” assignment: senior manufacturing engineer in North Berwick. Here Dean developed tooling and equipment to enhance process improvements. She also fulfilled key milestones of a lean transformation project. In addition, she earned a master’s at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“One of the main drivers for me to pursue a master’s degree was to gain a greater knowledge of Lean principles and apply them,” Dean said. “It was important for me to be able to achieve better product flow, faster cycle times and improved production quality.”

Today, Dean is a technical manager overseeing manufacturing engineers. She also coordinates $15 million in annual capital expenditures and oversees the Lean transformation of a 90,000 ft2 manufacturing area.

Early on, she said, “I was not exactly sure what career in engineering I wanted to pursue. Having the ability to speak to others about their experiences and the opportunities that were available was a valuable experience. So when there is a chance to be a mentor I was happy to say ‘yes’ because I know how beneficial having a mentor has been to me.”

Garret C. Doyle, Age: 26

FCA US LLC, Auburn Hills, MI


Garret Doyle’s profile is best begun in his own words:

“Growing up in a small town I enjoyed spending time with my dad and grandfather working on farm equipment. It wasn’t long before I realized my love for taking things apart and figuring out how they worked.

“I decided to pursue engineering in high school when I began connecting my passions for understanding how things work and building things to a profession in which I could continually learn and feel challenged,” he continued. “Two of my cousins attended Kettering University and played a big role in my decision to go there.”

Doyle’s path through Kettering earned him a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and a master’s in engineering management. It also led him to FCA, where he was a co-op engineer, gaining experience in stamping, body, paint and general assembly plants. He also served as business planner for FCA’s vice president of manufacturing engineering.

Doyle’s professional career at FCA began in the Manufacturing Engineering General Assembly Group. Here, said Dominic Ventola, FCA director of general assembly operations, he quickly distinguished himself as a skilled problem solver. Next Doyle moved to “the project team organizing a completely new general assembly shop for the all-new 2019 Ram pickup. This is a critical, high-visibility program for FCA. Only the best people within the ME group were assigned to this project.”

Doyle’s role was a key one: tooling and launch supervisor. Development of all trim shop process tooling was his responsibility. “He was highly successful,” said Ventola, “demonstrating true mastery and an ability to work with a diverse group of ‘customers.’”

Mehdi Drissi, Age: 28

Bridgr, Montreal, QC, Canada


Mehdi Drissi is co-founder and product lead of Bridgr, a technology company that supports small and medium manufacturing enterprises in their efforts to transition to the digital world of Industry 4.0. Bridgr connects these companies to qualified experts and technologies appropriate to their sector and problems. He holds bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and informatics and a master’s degree in digital marketing.

Nominated by Bridgr’s other co-founder, Amira Boutouchent, Drissi “designs, thinks, invents, and builds different processes and tech products that can help any manufacturing company identify, plan and complete digital transformations.” She said Drissi moved to Canada from France “just to have an impact on the industrial world.”

More specifically, Drissi said his goal is to “create tools and provide services that help people improve their daily lives and help people work” in order to live and not live in order to work.

Drissi cites his parents as his primary role models. His father is a microbiology researcher “who worked with well-known labs in France.” His mother is a pharmacist who has run her own business for more than 30 years. “Entrepreneurs at heart, they have done everything in their lives to improve the lives of others.”

Another significant influence is Sebastião Salgado, a Brazilian photographer, who has inspired Drissi in his own photographic pursuits, including being a photojournalist in France.

Maeve Guilfoyle, Age: 24

Limerick Institute of Technology/Takumi Precision Engineering, Woodcock Hill, Meelick, County Clare, Ireland


Maeve Guilfoyle made the unlikely transition from music to manufacturing. “Since I was 12 years old,” said Guilfoyle, “music was all I wanted to do.” Her attitude changed once she began taking college music courses. The classwork was too freeform and ill-suited to the way Guilfoyle learns.

She took a break from her music classes and took a job at Takumi Precision Engineering in Limerick, Ireland, on a six-month contract. “Maeve’s appetite for learning and developing led Takumi to offer her a scholarship in precision engineering at the Limerick Institute of Technology,” said her nominator, Donal Galligan, Takumi operations manager.

Guilfoyle spends two days a week on her studies and the other three working. “She was at the top of her class last year,” said Galligan, “an impressive achievement considering she is the only woman in her class.”

“I am really enjoying classes on statistical process control, Six Sigma, and Lean,” she said. “I love anything that makes a system flow better, work cleaner and makes processes as close to poka yoke as possible, which I feel is important for any small company.”

Guilfoyle plans to continue on to a master’s in engineering once she completes her bachelor’s degree.

Takumi has grown by 25% since Guilfoyle joined the company and Galligan says she owns a share of that growth because of her dedication to doing things properly and efficiently.

During her time at Takumi, Guilfoyle has “developed a passion for promoting all things manufacturing,” said Galligan. “Through a local program, she encourages secondary school students, especially girls, to go into careers in engineering.”

Amberlee Haselhuhn, Age: 29

General Motors Company, Warren, MI


Amberlee Haselhuhn may have a BS and PhD in materials science engineering as well as a BS in biomedical engineering, but that is not the path she set out on.

“I originally wanted to be a medical doctor when I started my undergraduate education in biomedical engineering, but after spending time shadowing a doctor, I realized this really wasn’t for me,” she said. “Around the same time, I was required to take an introduction to materials science course and absolutely loved it, so I added a BS in materials science and engineering. A summer internship with a metal casting house showed me the type of innovative work I could do with an advanced degree, and I decided to pursue my PhD.”

While Haselhuhn has her name on 11 peer-reviewed publications and has delivered six conference presentations, she is not about theory alone. She also has a passion for applied research.

Haselhuhn applies the fundamentals of materials science and engineering to the joining of dissimilar materials for automotive body lightweighting. She is currently working on understanding the physics of spot welding of dissimilar metals.

The daughter of a machinist, Haselhuhn is the first in her family to earn an engineering degree or an advanced STEM degree. Perhaps because of this, she is eager to “spread the gospel” of a STEM education. Haselhuhn mentors a local all-girls FIRST Robotics team and volunteers at science festivals with the American Foundry Society’s “Foundry in a Box” demonstrations.

Larissa Hofman, Age: 28

Edge Factor, Beamsville, ON, Canada


Larissa Hofman, vice president and director of communications for Edge Factor, has not had a direct role in manufacturing, but she certainly has had a major impact on it. Edge Factor is a company and a platform that provides tools to captivate students, reach parents, change perceptions and inspire career paths in manufacturing by making STEM relevant.

According to Graham Hargreaves, marketing manager at CNC Software Inc. (Tolland, CT) and the one who nominated Hofman for 30 Under 30, Hofman has led the Edge Factor team in inspiring “more than 2000 organizations to host Manufacturing Day events and use a free turnkey kit of story-driven resources called the Rock MFG DAY Kit.

Among the other workforce-development products Hofman has produced and/or directed, said Hargreaves, are more than 30 cinematic films and TV shows “that tell real-life stories of teams of manufacturers working together, connecting their minds with their hands and using technology to change lives and impact the world.”

Hofman is fascinated with the power of telling a good story. “There was no ‘aha’ moment that inspired me on my career path,” she said. “My inner storyteller empowered me and incredible mentors showed me how to lead teams of people to achieve desired results.

“After graduating from high school I had no idea what I wanted to do,” she continued. “Today, I’m helping students to find their passion and launch rewarding careers that will, in turn, empower them to support families and give back to their communities.”

K. Lakshmi Varaha Iyer, Age: 30

Magna International, Troy, MI


It’s only natural that K. Lakshmi Varaha Iyer would work for a global automotive supplier such as Magna International.

“My family is crazy about cars,” he said. “To this day my father changes cars every year. My passion for cars truly started with him, so you can say I am following the family tradition.”

Iyer may be following a tradition, but he is also leading research into electrified vehicles. Magna Director of R&D Jamin Sinkular, the person who nominated Iyer, tells how Iyer is doing it:

“He is a researcher who is paving the way to widespread adoption of electrified vehicles. He has a long-term goal of building electrified vehicle systems that are more affordable, sustainable and renewable.”

In 2017 alone, Iyer, a technical specialist engineer at Magna Corporate R&D and Engineering, developed test platforms, filed an electrified vehicle patent and published two peer-reviewed articles. His work is a natural evolution of the subject of his dissertation, which studied electrified transportation systems and direct-drive configuration, which bypasses the need for a transmission, according to Sinkular.

“Iyer has an impressive publication record, placing him among the top one percent of all graduate students in the history of the University of Windsor’s Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering,” Sinkular added. “He is noted for developing novel and advanced design approaches that are now used extensively in industry and academia.”

In addition to his contributions to the field of electrical engineering, Iyer was instrumental in designing and implementing an industrial scale automotive powertrain testing facility at the University of Windsor, according to Sinkular.

Coby Kabili, Age: 29

Robo, San Diego, CA


Coby Kabili is one of the founders of “a team on a mission to inspire new ways to learn, work, and play.” That’s the foundational statement of Robo, a company that aims to democratize 3D printing by offering affordable printers, material, accessories and kits.

Kabili and Braydon Moreno founded Robo in 2012. Kabili’s inspiration derived from the need to find an easier solution to complete his senior bioengineering design class project, the development of a prosthetic leg.

What came out of the project (besides a 3D-printed prosthetic) was the Robo R1, a high-quality 3D printer that was affordable and easy to use. The partners went to Kickstarter seeking $49,000 to start up Robo. Eventually crowd sourcing amounted to $1 million and Robo went public in December 2016. Today, Robo employs more than two dozen people.

“Coby has always shown that he can achieve whatever he puts his mind to,” said Moreno. The fact is that Robo captured three awards at CES 2017, including the Best of Innovation Award.

Like so many 30 Under 30 honorees before him, Kabili always loved taking things apart. “The inner workings of machines and how they are built fascinates me,” he said. “This naturally led to making a hardware product, which others wanted as well.”

One source of Kabili’s inspiration is not surprising.

“I really love the way that Elon Musk has an out-of-this-world work ethic,” he said. “If you work twice the hours in a day than most people, you will accomplish tasks in half the time.”

Parth N. Khimsaria, Age: 25

Lam Research, Tualatin, OR


Parth Khimsaria came to Oregon State University in 2011 from India, according to OSU Engineering Professor Karl Haapala. Khimsaria graduated in 2016 with a BS in manufacturing engineering, a BS in industrial engineering and a minor in business entrepreneurship.

At OSU, Khimsaria helped promote internationalism on campus. He served as the International Cultural Ambassador for India under the International Cultural Service Program from 2011 to 2016. “In addition to internationalization,” said Haapala, “he has a passion for mentoring.”

Khimsaria was a student assistant for the International Peer Mentoring Program and a supplemental instruction leader for the Academic Success Center, “to name a few of the efforts he was involved with,” Haapala said. And at Lam Research, where he is an operations analyst in the continuous improvement department, Khimsaria coaches floor technicians and peers in A3 and Lean Six Sigma methodologies.

“My father,” Khimsaria said, “is the biggest inspiration behind my choice to be an engineer. His stories of problem solving at work pushed me to want to learn the engineering principles and apply them. Manufacturing engineering appealed to me the most as I realized volume manufacturing is one of the most effective ways to share the benefits of design ingenuity with the public. The ever-increasing cost of manufacturing coupled with customers who expect ever higher quality makes manufacturing the perfect platform to learn problem-solving principles.

“My objective is to see that manufacturing is used to make basic commodities affordable and accessible to the masses of the Third World,” he added.

Zongchang Liu, Age: 29

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH


Zongchang Liu wants to see manufacturing operate without having to worry about system malfunctions, machine breakdowns, and process drift. And judging from his accomplishments to date, Liu is not waiting for someone else to make that happen.

As an undergrad, he earned bachelor of science degrees in both electrical and manufacturing engineering with a minor in interdisciplinary design for global healthcare, all in the span of four years. Since then he has been studying at the University of Cincinnati, where he is on the verge of receiving a PhD in mechanical engineering. He is also a research assistant in the University’s Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems (IMS) under the guidance of Distinguished Professor Jay Lee. Lee has served as Liu’s advisor throughout his master’s and PhD programs.

“[Liu] is an extraordinary student with combined research, innovation, and entrepreneurial leadership,” said Lee. “He developed his research in a number of leading areas including prognostics, health management, industrial big data analytics, and cyber physical systems in industrial and manufacturing systems, including smart wind farm monitoring and maintenance optimization, smart ship operations, high-speed train systems, gearbox prognostics and more.”

Liu also holds 11 patents, including one for a laparoscopic gallbladder extraction device. He also is principal or contributing author to six journal papers, many of them dealing with electric vehicles and wind turbines.

In addition, Liu is co-founder and CTO for Cybersight Technologies Co. Ltd., a spinoff of IMS that provides AI solutions.

Roby Lynn, Age: 27

Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA


In high school, Roby Lynn decided to soup up his parents’ lawnmower. He used a turbo he got from a junkyard. That “made them quite confused to say the least,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated with machinery. I’ve also really been into computers and been particularly interested in machinery that is computer controlled.”

It’s little wonder that he decided to enroll at Georgia Tech for an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. For his co-op program Lynn took a job at OFS Fitel (Norcross, GA), an optical fiber manufacturing company.

“My experience at OFS inspired me to pursue an advanced education at Georgia Tech,” he said.

Lynn has already earned an MSME and was due to receive a secondary master of science degree in electrical and computer engineering in May. In addition, “I am currently an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and PhD candidate in mechanical engineering,” he said. “I expect to finish my degree within a year.” His current research is in both computer-aided manufacturing and real-time motion control of a CNC machine from a CAM system without the use of G-code.

According to Thomas R. Kurfess, Lynn’s PhD advisor, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and HUSCO/Ramirez Distinguished Chair in Fluid Power and Motion Control at Georgia Tech, this involves “reformulating a variety of mechanistic machining and machine tool trajectory planning algorithms to make them amenable to extremely high-value multicore operations.” For his PhD, Lynn is integrating this work into an overall additive/subtractive architecture.

“Roby is a very special student who is going to advance rapidly in his career,” said Kurfess. “I have worked with many students, some of who are senior leaders in industry. Roby has all the characteristics of such a leader.”

Andrew Makepeace, Age: 30

Greenleaf Corp., Saegertown, PA


Andrew Makepeace, material research engineer for research and development at Greenleaf Corp., knows the benefits of thinking about the small things in life. His thesis for his MS in physics at Miami University was “Modeling the Behavior of Gold Nanoparticles and Semiconductor Nanowires for Utilization in Nanodevice Applications.” This knowledge of nanotechnology has helped him develop “critical knowledge around the optimization of cutting data for given material conditions and operations, which has significantly contributed to the success of [our company],” said Timothy Neumann of Greenleaf Corp.

Other small things Makepeace focuses on are those who one day may follow him into the worlds of STEM and manufacturing. He has led hands-on workshops for fourth and fifth graders as well giving demonstrations to second graders during an elementary school science week in Oxford, OH. He also assisted with an all-day hands-on experience for children and adults during Nanoscience Day at the Cincinnati Museum Center. In Saegertown, he helps out with Greenleaf’s involvement in a materials science experience for high schoolers.

“I try to be a mentor in any way that I can be,” Makepeace said. “I love the material systems that we work with—they’re amazing at nearly every level.”

While earning his BS in physics at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College (Penn State Behrend) and again while he was working on his master’s degree, Makepeace served as a teaching assistant.

“Even though I did commit to engineering” as a career, he said, “I still fancy myself an educator.”

William I. McCall, Age: 29

AKG North American Operations, Mebane, NC


William McCall’s undergraduate work was in industrial and system engineering, “and the system aspect was of greater interest to me initially,” he said. “But halfway through I had an internship with BMW in South Carolina. Seeing 6000 people all working toward the same goal was eye opening. For me it was like Dorothy going to the Emerald City.

“While there, I gained an understanding of how great the challenge of modern manufacturing is,” he continued. “And when I thought about the various different careers I could pursue, the desire to tackle that challenge [helped lead] to a shift in the classes I took and set me on my present course.”

That course has taken McCall to AKG North American Operations.

“William is currently a manufacturing engineer [with us],” said Ric Henson, the company’s manufacturing engineering manager. “He is always focused on continuous improvement and he has an extraordinary work ethic and drive, which is apparent in all his projects.

“Although he is assigned to a facility in North Carolina, his projects have been noticed by several plant managers, and he is continually requested to manage global projects,” Henson continued. “In addition to his normal engineering duties, William is currently managing the startup of a production facility in Brazil.”

McCall also volunteers to judge high school science projects, both at the district and state levels. In addition, he is developing a science mentor program in a local school district. McCall is also a regular tour group leader for the Career Advancement Program apprenticeship program, which introduces high schoolers to manufacturing.

Jeremy Miller, Age: 29

Olympic Steel, Chambersburg, PA


Since Jeremy Miller joined Olympic Steel in 2011, he has participated in or led over 40 lean improvement events, according to Jamie Lowrie, senior consumable sales manager at Hypertherm, and the person who nominated Miller.

Lowrie said Miller also has been instrumental in process evaluations for Olympic and has produced “some of the most detailed data analysis for their equipment that a steel service center has produced.”

Another nominator, Coady Barrie, Olympic Steel corporate quality manager, said, “Miller’s work in standardization has resulted in significant improvements in the areas of application. He is a dedicated employee who not only seeks to gain knowledge to broaden his skillset, but the skillsets of others, as well.”

Miller graduated from Messiah College with a BS in engineering, and he gives back to his alma mater: “Since graduating in 2011, I have attended most of the science, engineering, and health symposiums to check in on the current projects. On two occasions, I helped produce fabricated parts for projects. The first project was working with a group of students to produce a specialized part that would be able to adapt an oil press to process the plant Jatropha to produce oil that could be turned into biodiesel. Last year I worked with the Mexico Bridge team to produce gusset plates that were used to build a pedestrian bridge in Qaxaca, Mexico.”

Looking ahead, Miller is contemplating pursuing a master’s degree, perhaps in business administration. “I would also like to utilize more of my time in a mentorship/team collaboration role both at Olympic Steel and outside of it.”

Jacob S. Rahdarian, Age: 29

Elwood Texas Forge, Navasota, TX


Ask Jacob Rahdarian who his career role models are and his answer is there are too many to list. That’s almost the case with the number of nominations he received for 30 Under 30 honors.

The nominations came from those who currently work with him at Ellwood Texas Forge (Navasota, TX), ones who worked with him in the past, as well as customers of Rahdarian’s side business, Rahdarian Consulting Services.

One of those customers, Jonathon Jackson of Bob Lee Bows, had this to say:

“As a builder of custom traditional bows, we purchased a CNC mill, with Jacob’s help, to increase production. We were extremely impressed, considering Jacob had zero knowledge of how a traditional bow is constructed. His programming and fixturing skills and work ethic are astonishing. His will to successfully complete a task and the spirit in which he does so is phenomenal.”

Israel Hernandez, former shop foreman at Forge USA, told how Rahdarian reduced the machine runtime for a double RAM blowout preventer from 220 to 160 hours by “adding newfound tooling and a few fancy Surface Finish Contour toolpaths.”

Kevin Nguyen of Ellwood Texas Forge recalls the time he and Rahdarian worked together at another shop. Rahdarian was tasked with programming a lathe to process a $500,000 titanium component. Nguyen was tasked with verifying that every line in Rahdarian’s program was correct prior to processing. “He did an excellent, quality job” the first time through, even though it was only the second time Rahdarian had programmed a part for a lathe.

Madeline Salazar, Age: 26

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, CA


George (Nick) Bullen, a Technical Fellow at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, nominated Madeline Salazar because she is an “outstanding young manufacturing engineer and contributor to her community.”

Salazar’s first exposure to science and technology was in 7th grade during an after-school program in which she learned about engineering science and decided to become an engineer. From that point, her engineering focus matured from wanting to be a roller-coaster designer to chemical engineering and finally bio-medical engineering in high school.

According to Bullen, Salazar said the day she graduated from MIT with a BS in mechanical engineering was “surreal,” feeling at any moment someone would come to the ceremony and tell her that something was wrong and she could not graduate.

That feeling is not too surprising given that Salazar is the first person in her extended family of more than 100 members to have pursued a STEM degree in the US. Her parents are Mexican immigrants who placed a high value on education, even though they had little schooling themselves.

Salazar’s first job after graduating in 2013 was with the Boeing Co., first as a satellite development factory integration manager and then as a hydro-mechanical systems engineer. In 2016 she was hired by Northrop as an advanced manufacturing and technologies engineer.

Salazar’s talent has led Northrop to place her in a leadership role for developing and deploying its Smart Factory portfolio initiative for developing automation, IT and InfoSec requirements. In nine months, she led a team to design, develop, and deploy real-time dashboards using machine-generated performance data to improve automated machinery utilization rates and develop sensors for Dashboard Intel.

Ragava Reddy Sama, Age: 23

Master Power Transmission, Columbus, IN


Ragava Reddy Sama received his mechanical engineering MS from California State University, Los Angeles, in May 2017 and joined Master Power Transmission in July of that year. His accomplishments in less than a year, as outlined by Master Power’s Gregory King, are notable. Among them:

  • Reducing inspection time by 50% by creating a CMM program to automatically inspect a tapered drive shaft for gage line location, cross hole location, and taper per foot tolerance.
  • Helping consolidate and reduce tool inventory needs by identifying opportunities to implement commonly used tools across related work centers. This project also helped increase tool life when machining cast iron.
  • Working with Clemson University on machining parts to be used in an aerospace research and development project.

What inspired Sama to become an engineer was working on the tractors on his father’s farm in India. The tractors worked fine cultivating cotton on dry land, but suffered wheel bearing failure after only two days of cultivating rice in a wet field. The sixth grader began seeking a fix to the problem. This marked the start of his interest in working with tools and mechanical devices, which only grew from there.

That hands-on approach has continued.

Master Power Transmission has different kinds of two- to five-axis machine tools and “I have hands-on and NC programming with all of them,” Sama said. He also has a home 3D printer that he sometimes uses to make prototypes for chuck jaws, bushings, washers and other items needed at work. In addition, he is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.

Chenhui Shao, Age: 30

University of Illinois, Urbana, IL


Chenhui Shao is an assistant professor in the University of Illinois (UI) Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering. He obtained his PhD from the University of Michigan (UM) under the tutelage of S. Jack Hu.

According to Hu, “Of all the PhD students I have advised, including those who are now on the faculty of various universities, I rank Chenhui at the very top in terms of research capabilities, teaching effectiveness, and overall potential.”

Shao entered the UM mechanical engineering graduate program in the fall of 2009 with a departmental fellowship. According to Hu, “he demonstrated outstanding intellectual capability in his course work and research. His GPA was at 4/4 and he passed the graduate core courses of ME PhD qualifying exams with a total score of 11.5/12 .

“With a PhD in mechanical engineering, one master’s degree in industrial and operations engineering, and another master’s degree in statistics, he is well equipped to tackle the challenges in manufacturing systems and big data,” Hu concluded.

Shao is now supervising four UI PhD students and advising a number of undergraduate researchers. But not all his time is spent with post-secondary education.

Said Shao, “Since joining the University of Illinois in 2016, I have been actively designing and leading outreach activities for students from K-12 and underrepresented groups.”

Shao is a practical person in another respect, as well: “While I was a PhD student, I spent much time operating machine tools, such as an ultrasonic welder.”

Derek S. Straub, Age: 30

MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington, MA


Derek Straub is additive manufacturing lead at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He obtained his bachelor’s in aero-mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. Straub earned his master’s of manufacturing engineering with a concentration in additive manufacturing at MIT. He oversees the design and production of complex parts across seven industrial AM platforms while his research focuses on novel AM processes and the advancement of current AM processes and materials.

Now head of operations at Raytheon Vision Systems, James F. Ingraham was group leader at Lincoln Laboratory when he met Straub. “In my six years of working with Derek, I watched a highly creative and technically advanced engineer not only embrace and utilize additive manufacturing technologies but become a leader in the field, developing a variety of previously unattainable integrated multifunctional parts designs for step change advances to defense sensor systems … Most of his work cannot be shared because of the sensitive nature of the systems that are built at Lincoln Laboratory.”

Ingraham noted that Straub merged conventional machining and additive methods to optimize the hybrid capabilities of the two techniques in order to build multifunctional parts.

Besides being adept at machining and AM, Straub is well versed in metalworking as well as woodworking. He also is skilled in a wide variety of testing techniques and is fluent with numerous software solutions.

Capping off his nomination of Straub, Ingraham said, “Derek not only drives AM forward at work but enjoys spreading the learning and experience he has to students.”

James (J.N.) Strausbaugh, Age: 26

Global Shop Solutions, The Woodlands, Texas


James Strausbaugh initially started college on a pre-dental path but found himself unhappy with his science classes.

“I switched to business school for my junior year and found myself in the intro class to a program called Global Supply Chain and Operations Management (GSCOM),” said Strausbaugh. “I ended up majoring in GSCOM and Finance and this started me on my career path. It was the first time I began to really enjoy school. My Capstone project for the final class was to improve cycle time in an emergency room in a hospital. After implementing our recommendations, they were able to improve cycle time by 20% and we were rewarded our Six Sigma green belts.”

Dusty Alexander, CEO and president of manufacturing ERP software solutions provider Global Shop Solutions, picks up the story:

“Upon graduating, J.N. came directly to work for us. He currently serves as an operations consultant specializing in new customer implementations and designing and implementing custom software programs that enable existing customers to improve their job costing.

“What makes J.N. unique is his ability to zero in on problem areas affecting the integrity of a company’s job costing process,” Alexander continued. “He also has a remarkable ability to come up with the right solutions for the unique needs of each manufacturer.”

Part of that ability is likely due to the fact that he comes from a manufacturing family. “My Dad was a manufacturer’s rep for a large adhesive company and now owns his own company that distributes specialty adhesives,” Strausbaugh said. “My grandfather also owned an adhesive manufacturing company.”

Willem Sundblad, Age: 30

Oden Technologies, Brooklyn, NY


Willem Sundblad always had a passion for making things. “During my studies at Ecole Central Paris [where he majored in industrial engineering as an undergraduate] and at Lund University [where he earned his MS in industrial engineering and management], I visited manufacturers large and small to interview them about how they analyze and optimize their production,” said Sundblad. “That’s where the idea behind Oden came from.”

Simply put, Oden Technologies, the company he co-founded, “creates smart factories,” Sundblad said. “We provide a full-service Industrial IoT platform that empowers manufacturers with actionable, real-time data from their production facilities.”

But it took some time and a move to London before Oden became a reality. After grad school, Sundblad took a job. After a while, he said, “I knew I wanted to start Oden, and on my 26th birthday I realized my career at the time wasn’t getting me closer to starting the company, so I made the decision to go for it. I hoped that by my 27th birthday I’d be employed by my own company.” Oden was incorporated in only seven months and moved to the US the next year.

Dean Bartles, director of the John Olson Advanced Manufacturing Center at the University of New Hampshire, who nominated Sundblad, ticked off some of Sundblad’s accomplishments at Oden:

  • Winning a contract with General Cable in a head-to-head competition with a well-known industry giant.
  • Raising $5.9 million in seed funding “from some of the world’s leading industrial and technology investors, such as EQT Ventures.
  • Growing the Oden team from eight to 20 in 2017. He’s expecting the staff to exceed 60 by the end of 2018.

Ryan Tedjasukmana, Age: 27

CENIT North America Inc., Auburn Hills, MI


Ryan Tedjasukmana is well-educated and well-traveled. Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, at the age 16, he moved “to Singapore to pursue a more challenging education,” said Pamela Sari, a Purdue University instructor and one of those who nominated Tedjasukmana.

Fascinated by air travel, Tedjasukmana next enrolled in the Aeronautical and Astronautics Engineering program at Purdue. His undergraduate years included taking part in a Science and Engineering Summer Experience at Germany’s Technische Universität Braunschweig. Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree, he entered Purdue’s master’s program in Aeronautics and Astronautics.

“Just as I was about to [receive my bachelor’s], I got a job offer from CENIT North America,” Tedjasukmana said. “This opportunity has allowed me to work with various aerospace customers. In the beginning, large-scale factory automation was still new in the aerospace world and it is projected to continue growing. The diversity of the projects and the potential to be at the frontier of this application have inspired me to stay on my current career path.”

Currently Tedjasukmana is an applications engineer supporting the automated assembly of wing components as part of Boeing’s 777X NC Programming group. He worked on other 777 projects and has also worked on Boeing 737 programs.

“Ryan is a specialist in offline programming, focusing on custom software development and onsite implementation and services for his aerospace customers,” said colleague Andrew Bauer, who also nominated Tedjasukmana. “His leadership [extends] into the community. He has volunteered extensive time to mentoring students in STEM fields, leading activities in his church, and serving in community events.”

Akshat Thirani, Age: 23

Amper Technologies Inc., Chicago


Akshat Thirani is CEO and co-founder of Amper Technologies Inc., a venture-backed startup that was created to produce easy-to-deploy IoT products for manufacturers. The company’s premier patented product is a machine monitoring system invented by Thirani that generates metrics by non-invasively measuring the electrical use of a machine and intelligently interpreting the current signals. It can provide plant managers with data such as downtime and cycle time.

Using a retrofit system and avoiding IT or PLC integration, the product can track both new and legacy machines, from CNC machines to injection molding machines.

“Akshat started this company,” said nominator Lucas Frye, co-founder of Amber Agriculture, located in the greater Chicago area, “and has grown it from an idea all the way to its being a revenue producer with six employees.

“What separates him from other young entrepreneurs is that he is only 23 and has rapidly scaled up the company, which he started in his senior year at Northwestern University.”

Thirani’s family and early education helped provide the foundation for his success.

“I grew up surrounded by manufacturing as my family has been running manufacturing companies for four generations,” he said. “Additionally, I remember learning how to code when I was 12. My high school had a really strong computer science program.” Not surprisingly, Thirani also can do CNC milling and has experience with 3D modeling and additive printing.

Moreover, he said, “as CEO of Amper I have led the company through two top startup accelerator programs—HAX and Alchemist Accelerator—and recently raised a $1.75 million seed round of financing.”

Loren Townes, Age: 26

Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, MI


Loren Townes has been a driving force behind Washtenaw Community College’s efforts to engage young people in the field of autonomous and connected vehicles, advanced manufacturing, and technical careers as a whole, according to Brandon Tucker, who nominated Townes. And Tucker should know. He is the college’s Dean of the Advanced Manufacturing & Public Service Careers division.

“(Townes) is primarily responsible for coordinating our signature high school outreach program by which we…inform students about the careers” available through WCC’s technical education program,” said Tucker. “This program has been extremely effective under his leadership by impacting over 2500 students annually across all spectrums of special populations with an increased emphasis on minorities and nontraditional participants.”

Townes’ duties cover increasing awareness around skilled trades programs, including auto body, automotive technology, HVAC, motorcycle technology, and welding and fabricating.

Other responsibilities are supervising staff, managing K-12 partnerships and assisting with overseeing WCC’s involvement with the Community College Skilled Trades Equipment grant and the NSF grant.

The road to where he is today has not been a smooth one. Discovering his drive and ability “to uplift and develop others occurred while serving a two-year prison sentence,” Townes said. His efforts to redirect his life led eventually to higher education. He graduated with honors from the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University, even while working at Washtenaw Community College.

“Ultimately,” he said, “my goal is to create vigorous and positive change.”

Sean Wagner, Age: 30

General Motors Company, Warren, MI


Sean Wagner is a senior researcher in the Manufacturing Systems Research Laboratory at General Motors. He was nominated for 30 Under 30 by John Agapiou, technical fellow engineer for GM Global Research and Development.

“Sean started his undergraduate studies in physics at Michigan State University fueled by his interest in the concepts of electromagnetism and quantum mechanics” and more, said Agapiou.

Wagner continued his education at MSU, ultimately earning a PhD in physics in the field of condensed matter. “During his PhD work,” said Agapiou, he satisfied “his interest in teaching physics by working as a teaching assistant for a variety of introductory physics courses. Additionally, he was responsible for teaching an upper-level electronics course. Sean was also involved in mentoring students participating in the Research Experience for Undergraduates Summer Internship Program, which was organized by the Women and Minorities in Physical Sciences student program.”

Wagner’s current work at GM involves leading projects associated with manufacturing processes and operation of traction motors. He performs electromagnetic analysis of electric machines and sensors in order, said Agapiou, “to improve magnetic circuit designs, locally improve fatigue material properties for use in electric machines, and improve electrical transport methods for assessing electrical performance of welded conductors during the manufacturing process. Additionally, he has diversified his skills into the areas of automated motion control, machine vision, and machine learning, which couples well with his experience in image processing and data analytics.”

Jason Wolf, Age: 28

Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH


Jason Wolf is the resident machining expert at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Manufacturing and Technology Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Since beginning this job in 2016 he “has continually taken on leadership roles,” said Howard Sizek, branch chief at AFRL Wright-Patterson. “Most recently, he is leading an industry-academia-AFRL research effort to advance processing knowledge of a critical new Air Force alloy. This alloy was developed by AFRL research engineers and will be replacing more expensive and difficult-to-produce alloys currently utilized by the US defense industrial base.”

Wolf’s route to this point in his career involved a lot of hard work.

“In my junior year in high school I was bitten by the manufacturing bug,” he said. “Near the end of high school I took a full-time apprenticeship opportunity at Exact Tool & Die. Meanwhile, I started evening classes at a community college to try my hand at earning a mechanical engineering degree. After about three years, I took an apprenticeship at NASA Glenn Research Center and I loved being around aeronautics and space-related projects.”

About midway through finishing his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, Wolf decided to go to school full time. “Then, in the summer before my last semester as an undergraduate, AFRL offered me a job,” he said. “At AFRL my interests in manufacturing, engineering, and the defense community all converged.”

Added Sizek, “Mr. Wright has not forgotten his roots as a tool and die apprentice and continues to support the Polaris Career Center as an advisory council member for the precision CNC machining program.”

Honorable Mention

  • Mohsen Taheri Andani
  • Mira Babinova
  • Jared Beach
  • Carlos Bolanos
  • Mark Briel
  • Kenneth Brown
  • George Burleson
  • Micah Chaban
  • Jin Chao
  • Yuan Di
  • Elizabeth Delozier
  • Chris DiNeno
  • Peter Douglass
  • Jonathan Michael Ferletic
  • Courtney Graves
  • Randi Gelisse
  • Matthew Goss
  • Geoffrey Raymond Hamilton
  • Robert Heltsley
  • Christopher Herridge
  • Luke Hoffmann
  • Joshua Howard
  • Cooper Jolly
  • William Kennedy
  • Arkadeep Kumar
  • Tsz Ho Kwok
  • Donald Liveoak
  • Jeffrey Lloyd
  • Joshua Lytle
  • Trent Maynard
  • Emily Mikkelson
  • Joseph Messina
  • Caroline Mitchell
  • Kanchi Nayaka
  • Kara Patterson
  • Will Pisoni
  • Matthew Schattgen
  • Timothy Schoenbeck
  • Gregory Serio
  • Joshua Shoup
  • Tony Vagnerini
  • Patrique Veille
  • Sam Wilkins
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