Simpson wins ASEE's Merryfield design award

Timothy Simpson, professor of industrial engineering and mechanical engineering in Penn State's College of Engineering, was named the recipient of the 2011 American Society of Engineering Education's (ASEE) Fred Merryfield Design Award.

Established in 1981, the annual Merryfield Award recognizes an engineering educator for excellence in teaching engineering design and significant contributions to engineering design education. It is one of three national engineering awards given each year by the ASEE.

Simpson will receive his award on June 29 at ASEE's annual conference and exposition in Vancouver, Canada.

He holds a joint appointment in the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering and the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. Simpson holds affiliate appointments in the Engineering Design Program and the College of Information Sciences and Technology. In addition, he is the director of the Learning Factory, which provides a university-industry partnership so that Penn State students receive a practical, hands-on experience through industry-sponsored capstone design projects.

Simpson became Learning Factory director in 2007 and under his leadership it has become the largest program of its kind -- doubling the number of students involved, tripling the number of departments involved and nearly quadrupling the industry support and gifts the program has received.

He has partnered with faculty and capstone program directors in the Smeal College of Business and Colleges of Arts and Architecture, Earth and Mineral Sciences and Information Sciences and Technology to identify multidisciplinary projects that partner engineering and non-engineering students.

In order to efficiently run a program of this size Simpson made several changes to the way the Learning Factory operated. This included establishing a team of 15 design project coordinators who represent the various engineering departments and programs involved and assist in soliciting projects, and freeing up faculty and instructors to focus on the students and the course.

Simpson also created a more flexible cost model that ensures buy-in from the departments, academic colleges and industry sponsors, yet is easily tailored to each department's needs.

Lastly, he worked with faculty to revise the program's judging criteria to better reflect the variety of projects that are presented at the College of Engineering's Design Showcase at the end of each semester and establish reporting templates, grading rubrics and peer evaluation techniques that can be used across multiple departments. In 2009, the Learning Factory was named one of the Top 100 Organizations by Pennsylvania Business Central.

In the fall 2008, Simpson co-founded the Center for Research in Design and Innovation with faculty in Engineering and Arts and Architecture. Under Simpson's leadership, a team of faculty members spanning six University colleges has received $1 million to support education, research and outreach activities related to engineering design. Work done by the center includes a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a workshop series on interdisciplinary design education for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Simpson's research established the area of product family and product platform design within the field of engineering design. He has received more than $4.5 million in funding to support this area of his research, including an NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award. He also is the lead editor on the book, "Product Family and Product Platform Design: Methods and Applications," now in its third printing.

Simpson received his bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Cornell University and his master of science and doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Last Updated April 26, 2011