Tag Archives: mechanical engineering

Makerspace is part clubhouse, part business incubator and all workshop

Mechanical engineering graduate Chris Meyer founded Sector67 three years ago on Madison’s east side. Today, the “makerspace” offers its members an unpredictable atmosphere and crucial support for their startup ideas. Read more.

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Mentors help inventors make the leap to entrepreneur

Patrick Heaney, founder of NCD Technologies, uses a pyrometer to check temperatures inside of the vacuum chamber in the company’s lab at UW’s Research Park on Madison’s west side. The company is part of the UW MERLIN Mentors program. Photo by Bryce Richter.

It’s a story that could become a company’s founding narrative. The two Steves built their first Apple computer in the garage. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start a software company. And 4-year-old Patrick Heaney broke a plastic sword while play-fighting — and recognized that materials can always stand improvement.

Eventually, that could become the founding narrative of NCD Technologies LLC, a Madison startup that is developing a super-hard diamond coating for industrial cutting tools.

The technique was invented in the UW-Madison lab of mechanical engineering Associate Professor Frank Pfefferkorn, where Heaney received his Ph.D. in 2009. But when NCD finally makes a profit, some of the credit will be due to a high-tech, high-touch UW mentoring program called MERLIN Mentors.

Despite the name, MERLIN (Madison Entrepreneur Resource, Learning and Innovation Network) specializes in advice rather than magic. “We want to get skills in entrepreneurship to people interested in creating companies,” says Terry Sivesind, MERLIN’s director.

Read the full story here.

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Phillips Plastics co-founder Cervenka honored in U.S. House speech

On May 14, 2013, Congressman Sean P. Duffy of Wisconsin delivered a short talk before the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize alum Robert Cervenka (BSME ’58). Cervenka co-founded Phillips Plastics in 1964 and was its chairman and CEO until he and his wife, Debbie (the company executive vice president and a member of the board of directors), sold it in 2010.

Bob Cervenka recently earned a lifetime achievement award from the Price County (Wisconsin) Economic Development Association.

Following is a transcript of Duffy’s U.S. House speech:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the business accomplishments of Robert F. Cervenka of Phillips, Wisconsin, who has been presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Price County Economic Development Association.

Bob Cervenka was born and raised in the small town of Phillips, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After his graduation in 1958, Bob returned to the community that he loved to pursue his new business venture–the Phillips Plastics Corporation.

Phillips Plastics began operations on October 20, 1964, occupying an old creamery building in Phillips. In 1967, the company broke ground on a new 12,000 square foot custom plastic facility where they employed 30 skilled workers dedicated to crafting innovative control knobs for automobiles, dishwashers, fans, dehumidifiers, and dryers. In 1973, Phillips Plastics opened Precision Decorating in Medford, Wisconsin.

Shortly thereafter, the facility became known as Phillips Automotive, a full service design, manufacture, decoration, and assembly plant for high volume injection molded components. As industries from the Midwest moved to the south and offshore, Bob recognized that Wisconsin’s rural, small community workforce offered a unique competitive advantage. He developed additional plants in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, New Richmond, Hudson, and Prescott among others.

Capitalizing on the company’s success, Mr. Cervenka and co-founder Louie Vokurka established the independent philanthropic Ann Marie Foundation in 1974. Named after their mothers, the foundation worked to improve the quality of life within local communities that are home to Phillips Plastics facilities. Since its inception, the foundation has given over $8 million to schools and non-profit organizations.

Thanks to the business contributions of outstanding citizens like Robert F. Cervenka, Wisconsin’s economic future looks bright. I ask that my colleagues join me today to express our appreciation for Bob’s entrepreneurial spirit and our congratulations to him on receiving this well-deserved award.”

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Advanced manufacturing focus of June 10-14 conference

Featuring a broad swath of leading-edge research from around the world, an advanced manufacturing research conference June 10-14, 2013, will draw nearly 500 academic, industrial and governmental participants to the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison.

Hosted by UW-Madison, the event couples the 41st North American Manufacturing Research Conference, sponsored by the North American Manufacturing Research Institute within the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and the 2013 Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference, sponsored by ASME International.

“If you want ideas about things you might be able to implement or use in three to five years, this is a great place,” says Frank Pfefferkorn, a UW-Madison associate professor of mechanical engineering who is among the event organizers. “If you want to talk with the engineers developing these new ideas, then you definitely want to be at this conference.”

For more information, continue reading here. To register for the conference or workshops,  go to go.wisc.edu/namrc. Early registration for the conference ends May 10.

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Field Reports: Eyleen Chou’s Calling to Haiti

Eyleen Chou with a friend in Haiti, January 2010

As 2009-10 president of the UW-Madison chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Eyleen Chou knew the importance of tackling projects that bring lasting and sustainable impact to developing countries. It turns out that EWB’s “lasting impact” extends to her own career. The 2010 mechanical engineering graduate is back to work in Haiti, the country of focus for her EWB efforts, as a graduate fellow in the program Meds & Foods for Kids. Her work is bringing life-saving help to malnourished children in a country still reeling from the 2010 earthquake. (more…)

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Graduating at Age 94 — With an Engineering Assist

UW-Madison Communications posted a great article about Lyle Francis Robert Knudson, who at age 94 may be the eldest degree recipient in UW history. As an undergraduate senior in 1941, Knudson was called to World War II active duty in the U.S. Navy — on June 13, the same day of his last two final exams.

Knudson’s journey to a business degree almost seven decades later received a nice boost from Joseph Battenburg, a 1967 PhD graduate in mechanical engineering. Battenburg went to bat for Knudson as soon as he learned of his neighbor’s amazing story.

“Being a Wisconsin grad myself, I felt that something should be done to assist him,” says Battenburg. “Many universities have given students credit or degrees for life experiences, or because they have had their studies interrupted or at one time were refused admission to universities.”

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