Bright Futures: 2014 New Faces of Engineering

Bright Futures: 2014 New Faces of Engineering

BY Helen Horwitz Posted: 16 Feb 2015

Two Midwesterners – one a working engineer who graduated in 2008 and the other who expects to receive his B.S. and MBA in 2016 – are the 2014 IEEE/IEEE-USA New Faces of Engineering.  Both were honored in February by the National Engineers Week Foundation, http://www.discovere.org/our-programs/awards-and-recognition, a coalition of more than a dozen engineering societies, including IEEE, as well as major companies and U.S. government agencies.

In the course of her short career in industry, IEEE Member Amy K. Jones, age 28, has served as the electrical team lead for a strategic, new John Deere product, achieved her M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and devoted herself to a raft of STEM outreach programs.   

Since 2010, when she joined the Dubuque, Iowa, site of the global agricultural and construction equipment manufacturer, Jones has concentrated on developing a new excavator to offer to the company’s growing markets in China and Russia. “The challenge,” she says, “was to develop a perspective about what customers in those parts of the world want and need – not to assume that the same products purchased by Deere customers in North America would also appeal to Chinese and Russian customers.

“In North America, we like things very premium,” Jones continues. “It’s easy to assume that how we want our products is the same for people elsewhere. For example, in our culture we want auxiliary inputs and Bluetooth for a radio. But research showed us that prospective customers in China are just looking for an auxiliary input jack for USB. We had to identify and examine many assumptions, while also considering fuel consumption, durability and other performance issues.”

As the electrical team lead based in Dubuque, Jones worked with Deere colleagues around the world – engineers in India and China, a dealer network in Russia, and others in North America skilled with processes and products. While guiding the group through the development process for the new implement, she coordinated with an international team of design, machine evaluation and test personnel to meet production deadlines and standards, and wrote and executed software test plans. In May 2013, Jones spent two weeks in China where she oversaw final details with the excavator production line and she trained staff.

Her work earned her a spot among this year’s New Faces of Engineering, which recognizes young engineers under the age of 30 for their early accomplishments. She was among 12 recipients announced in February during National Engineers Week. Jones was honored for her efforts “leading the first team to implement a complete embedded software development process on a construction product line.”

At John Deere, she has quickly advanced to technical leadership and made broad contributions as an inventor. She has two invention disclosures and has submitted a patent application for fan control during single-engine operation of a dual-engine/dual-hydraulic fan system.

Amy Jones credits her EE father for her love of technology and engineering. “His favorite part of a present is the manual,” she laughs, “and there was never an appliance he couldn’t fix.” She says that as a youngster, she “graduated from just holding the flashlight to actually handling some of the tasks.”

A native of St. Charles, Missouri, Jones says both her parents were always very supportive but her father was “very vocal that I could do anything that I wanted.”

Math is her first love. “To me, math is a language just like English or French – a way we communicate with each other about how the universe works,” she explains. “I could never get the hang of grammar, but with math I can speak with anyone all over the world. Math is an awe-inspiring connection that brings everyone together.”

Not surprisingly, Jones is very active in STEM outreach programs. At John Deere, she has secured more than $20,000 to fund STEM outreach initiatives and in 2013 she increased employee opportunities to volunteer more than 2,000 hours. She also led company efforts to partner with the local school district in bringing two annual regional competitions – FIRST LEGO League and MathCOUNTS – to Dubuque. Jones also is extensively involved with the Dubuque Area Section of the Society of Women Engineers.

This past May, she received her M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University. She graduated in 2008 from Missouri University of Science & Technology, with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.

Less than 200 miles from Dubuque, IEEE Student Member Mike Pruszinske, age 21, is at Iowa State University in Ames, where he’s a fourth-year computer engineering student. In addition, he recently began a two-year, concurrent MBA program. Pruszinske was selected as the 2014 IEEE/IEEE-USA New Face of Engineering – College Edition for applying his entrepreneurial spirit to work with in a team to found ChariText. The startup is a fundraising site that encourages people to opt in for text advertisements; all proceeds go to charity.

Part of a group of four students who met at a Startup Weekend on the Iowa State campus, Mike proudly notes that in 48 hours they developed ideas, selected one and built the project – which included a rough web site. Over the next six months, they continued to refine the web site and promote ChariText to local businesses.           

“This was my first experience with a startup, and it opened my eyes to the challenges and excitement,” Pruszinske says. “Finding enough businesses to support it on a continuing basis was a challenge, but what really mattered here was the process of building it.”

“Building” appears to the operative word with him. Growing up in Champlin, Minnesota, near Minneapolis, he says he grew up with a strong interest in technology and is “my family’s IT guy.”  Pruszinske traces his interest in engineering to high school and an introductory course about engineering.

“Speakers from different companies talked about their work, some of their cool projects and what a typical day was like for them,” he explains. “The electrical engineering speaker’s presentation resonated most with me since I was already interested in computers and software.”

He’s enthusiastic about his post-graduation prospects for combining his engineering and business degrees. He thinks it could be in technical sales although, following in his father’s footsteps, he’s also very interested in becoming an entrepreneur. Pruszinske’s father established and runs his own asset location and recovery business.

Mike Pruszinske’s internships over the last three summers are providing him with valuable professional, as well as travel, experience. This past summer, he spent three months as an IBM intern in technical sales in San Francisco. He also contributed to such projects such as IBM’s Tivoli Network Manager monitoring plans and UI enhancements for a TecX Cloud application.  During the summer of 2013, he was an IT intern in Boeing’s Enterprise Data Center Network Services in Seattle. His first internship, in 2012, was in Donaldson’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology group in Bloomington, Minnesota.

On the Ames campus, he’s active in the IEEE Student Branch, and currently chairs the Computer Engineering Curriculum Committee, which collaborates with the university’s Electrical & Computer Engineering department on curriculum changes and improvements. He has also headed the Student Branch’s industry relations efforts, organizing informational sessions and networking opportunities on campus with area businesses.

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Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991-2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.

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