WNE’s Andrea Kwaczala Named Engineering Unleashed Fellow for 2021

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNE) College of Engineering Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Dr. Andrea Kwaczala has been named an Engineering Unleashed 2021 Fellow by the Kern Foundation. The honor recognizes faculty for their contribution to engineering education, specifically entrepreneurial engineering.

“Dr. Kwaczala is truly an ambassador of excellence for your institution and is distinguished both through a Fellows Project and through interactions with the greater Engineering Unleashed community,” said Douglas Melton, program director for the Kern Family Foundation.

This grant will support the Making with Purpose Workshop Series. These are monthly hands-on events running throughout this academic year. The workshop is intended to introduce students to the entrepreneurial mindset in an inclusive community within the makerspace facilities within the College of Engineering. Some activities align with Kwaczala’s research in assistive technology, such as building rapid prototypes of body-powered prosthetic devices and low-tech assistive technology to improve activities of daily living. Other activities are geared toward understanding a product’s marketspace and learning about manufacturing in scale-up, such as glowing LED pumpkins for Halloween decor and laser-cut jewelry to sell at the holidays. The projects are intended to promote technical skills and coach students to use a growth mindset.

“I want to create a technical space on campus that is welcome to all people, designed specifically towards underrepresented people,” Kwaczala said. “I try to create a place where students can take risks, ask questions, and learn technical skills like soldering, using power tools, and constructing physical devices. I believe, when we use our skills to focus on products that make a difference in society, we can improve students’ engineering self-efficacy and help them to persist in engineering.”

Engineering Unleashed is a community of 3,800 faculty members from 160 institutions of higher education, powered by KEEN, a 50-partner collaborative that shares a mission to graduate engineers with an entrepreneurial mindset who are equipped to create societal, personal, and economic value. The Engineering Unleashed faculty-development workshops are elements of KEEN’s multi-institutional activities. Kwaczala is one of 27 individuals from institutions of higher education across the country to receive this distinction.

“Being named an Engineering Unleashed fellow shows Dr. Kwaczala’s passion for learning, teaching, and practicing the entrepreneurial mindset,” said Dr. Rob Gettens, chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Western New England University. “Dr. Kwaczala’s enthusiasm for engineering design and the Making with Purpose series is genuinely infectious. As a leader, Dr. Kwaczala teaches our students to be leaders themselves, gaining confidence in practical engineering and ‘making’ skills, and then spreading the entrepreneurial mindset beyond the university. Dr. Kwaczala is indeed a leader and innovator in engineering education.”

Through their home institutions, fellows are awarded a $10,000 grant that may be used in a number of ways: to advance their project/module, develop a new product/module, participate in conferences, support undergraduate student assistants, or pay for part of their salary.

The nomination and naming process began with Kwaczala’s initiative to participate in one of the many Engineering Unleashed faculty-development workshops. These workshops are designed and delivered by a collaborative group of subject-matter experts who serve as faculty members at more than 25 institutions. They attract faculty participants from across the country, focusing on the development and application of an entrepreneurial mindset whether in teaching and learning, research, industry, or leadership.