Joseph Fuehne named Maha Associate Professor
Joseph Fuehne, PhD, an associate professor of mechanical engineering technology at Purdue’s College of Technology at Columbus, has been appointed Maha Associate Professor. The five-year appointment provides support for the advancement of fluid power education within the College of Technology. The professorship is awarded to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishment in teaching, research, or service that has had or will have a major impact on the fluid power community. It is named for Otto H. Maha, who bequeathed a gift to Purdue for teaching fluid power technology.
In announcing Fuehne’s appointment, Dean Dennis Depew wrote, “Fuehne has played a key role in developing the Columbus location’s bachelor’s degree program in mechanical engineering technology and the College of Technology’s developing field of mechatronics.”
He joined the faculty at the Columbus location as a visiting assistant professor in January of 2002.
What are some of your current research interests and projects?
My research interests include incorporating virtual lab simulations into the classroom among other projects to improve learning. In particular, the Maha professorship will allow me to focus on improving fluid power and mechatronics learning by exploring new and innovative teaching techniques like using a tablet notebook computer to enhance lectures.
I am heavily involved with preparations for our upcoming move into a brand new building in the Spring of 2011. The Lilly Endowment provided Region 9 (a 10-county region in southeastern Indiana) a large grant to upgrade the educational facilities and workforce preparation of the region. This includes a new Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence (AMCE), which will break ground in November of this year. I am involved with adding new laboratory and teaching equipment to the new building to satisfy the objective of the project, which is to raise the educational level of everyone in the region by one level. This effort includes a big emphasis on offering industry-recognized certifications like the Siemens Mechatronics Certification program that we’re preparing to offer next spring.
Also during the summer, I conducted seven robotics camps for children ages 9-14. These camps were in Shelbyville, Greensburg, Rising Sun, and Columbus and were attended by over 180 children. This effort culminates in the FIRST Lego League competition that I help organize each fall semester.
What is mechatronics?
Mechatronics is a field of study that combines elements of mechanics, electronics, computers, and pneumatics to accomplish a task. The mechatronics equipment we have in Columbus has a specific task – to assemble a hydraulic directional control valve – but it does so using motors, gears, various sensors like touch, ultrasonic, and light sensors, a robot, pneumatic actuators and cylinders, and computer software to make it all work together. Mechatronics really demands an overall system perspective rather than focusing on individual elements. A garage door is a common mechatronics system. The touch and light sensors keep the door from closing on people and a motor drives it up and down. A mechanical chain drive is usually used and a special computer – a programmable logic controller - combines all these elements in the software to enable the operations we take for granted.
Why do you enjoy what you do?
It’s really very simple. I enjoy what I do because I’m constantly learning. Whether it’s classroom material, new technologies, potentially new classes like Mechatronics, or new lab equipment, there’s always something to learn more about. I’ve taught 14 different classes in Columbus and I’ve learned a lot in each class and have enjoyed that aspect of teaching at a statewide location.
What are some of your hobbies?
Most of my hobbies deal with sports. I actively enjoy golf and tennis and I’m a huge St. Louis Cardinal baseball fan. My son is on his middle school tennis team so I’m still enjoying beating him, although that’s probably temporary. I very much enjoy reading about history but have also enjoyed Tom Clancy and John Grisham novels, and I absolutely love to travel. I’m hoping the Maha professorship will provide an opportunity to engage colleagues in Germany and other countries on fluid power and mechatronics, possibly developing study abroad opportunities for faculty and students.