UW-Stout Discovery Center recognizes 2016 top faculty collaborators

collaboration awards 2016

Menomonie, Wis., Nov. 4, 2016  Two University of Wisconsin-Stout faculty recently received Discovery Center Collaborator of the Year awards acknowledging their work to promote beneficial partnerships between the university and regional industry.

Devin Berg, UW-Stout associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Jennifer Astwood, UW-Stout associate professor of industrial design, were presented their awards at the university's Manufacturing Advantage Conference & Technology Showcase this fall. They are the first recipients of the award.

"Making connections between faculty, students and industry is a big part of what the UW-Stout Discovery Center is about," said Larry Blackledge, director of the university's Manufacturing Outreach Center. "These faculty have excelled at doing this."

Blackledge cited several real-world engineering projects facilitated by Berg and his students, including initial mechanical design of a mobility Freedom Scooter for a prospective developer, and establishment of UW-Stout's Chapter of Engineers Without Borders USA.

Astwood consistently fosters professionalism in her industrial design students which, in turn, provides them with portfolio opportunities critical to landing a job in that field, said Blackledge.

Astwood's students have demonstrated their professionalism and design skills working with companies throughout the state, including Johnson Health Tech of Cottage Grove, Lamplight-Tiki Brand of Menomonee Falls, and LS Research (LSR) of Cedarburg.

With Astwood's guidance, industrial design students collaborated with LSR in fall 2015 to solve technology issues users may experience with mobile phones, music players, fitness trackers, and wearable devices in communication, emergency, fitness, and other applications. The students' in-depth solutions incorporated sensing technologies, user interfaces, power and storage options, varied definitions of "wearable," and more. They also addressed the broader questions of "What kind of help do people need?" and "How can these new tools help users understand their environments?"

"My students learned the value of research and usability testing," Astwood observed. "The project forced them to consider the feel, the look of the product from the perspective of the user. It gets them out of their own heads."

 LSR Product Development Manager Rich Walters noted that the project expanded LSR's perspective as well. "We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the designs," said Walters. "The entire class was impressive, and this experience builds our trust in the work these students can do. If we're looking for an entry-level employee or intern, we're definitely knocking on Stout's door."

With a glance toward the award displayed on her office shelf, Astwood concludes that it's nice to be recognized for all the hard work she and Berg invest in projects like these and says she hopes to see the momentum continue. "We're always looking for opportunities to work with clients," she said. "It's important to be relevant in this age."

I want to know more about this! Put me in touch with the UW-Stout Discovery Center.