Outstanding Assistant Professor Award
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Right: Brad Kinsey in his Kingsbury Hall lab, really does enjoy playing Legos with his daughters Julia (shown) and Emma, and wife Susan.
Putting it all together
As a kid, Brad Kinsey loved to take things apart and put them back together again. When his parents' answering machine broke, he dismantled it, piece by piece, identified the tiny rubber belt at the root of the problem, and got the manufacturer to replace the belt for 30 cents.
"I just popped it in. I was used to the idea of building things," says Kinsey, a Michigan native who grew up just 15 miles outside of Flint, home to many General Motors plants. Kinsey grew up in a "hands–on" family. His aunts and uncles worked for the automotive industry and his father was an electrician on the GM shop floor. He taught Kinsey how to install brakes, change the oil, and tune the family cars.
"The automotive industry is very ingrained in everyone who lives in Michigan," Kinsey says. "I didn't really notice it until I lived in other places, places not dominated by the auto industry."
After graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, Kinsey moved to Vermont, where he worked for Torrington Company, a Connecticut–based large bearing manufacturer that also made steering column assemblies for automotive plants.
As a quality assurance engineer, he traveled to various automotive plants that used Torrington parts and acted as a troubleshooter when manufacturing problems arose. He also worked with Torrington's suppliers, watching their manufacturing processes and consulting on that end.
His experiences made him keenly aware of the need for engineering education "that emphasizes solutions, since that is what much of an engineer's time is spent doing," recalls Kinsey. In fact, so keen was this awareness, Kinsey decided to pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Northwestern.
The Torrington experiences also became grist for courses Kinsey would go on to teach at UNH, such as Introductory Manufacturing Engineering, in which he infuses his teaching with real practices from the plant floor. "I was fortunate enough to have seen all the manufacturing processes in one way or another," he says.
Kinsey's machine design class presents students with a "Bag O' Junk:" plexiglass, plywood, bearings, motors, and shaft material. He then says to them, "Make something that will go 10 feet as fast as possible while simultaneously lifting a brick." Every team comes up with a different way to address the problem.
"In the classroom, I really enjoyed how Professor Kinsey applied his real–world research to the concepts we were learning," says Matthew Derov, who received his bachelors in mechanical engineering and is working towards his masters degree. "He has been the most important figure in my educational career."
Besides the authentic class projects, Kinsey enhances lectures by involving his students in his own research on material forming. Students learn how to predict sheet metal failure, characterize stress in materials, and measure strain. They also work on projects for the Center for High–rate Nanomanufacturing, a state–of–the–art collaboration among UNH, Northeastern University, and UMass Lowell to help industries figure out how to manufacture on the nano scale.
Mechanical engineering senior Grace Hwang says, "I've experienced advanced material that most undergraduates at other universities would not normally be exposed to in their regular course work. Professor Kinsey constantly encourages me to further my interests in the field and continuously challenge myself."
Kinsey says that working alongside students in the lab is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a professor. "It's a real opportunity to have an open–ended project," he says. "You're working together and learning together."