Top design engineering award presented to Penn State Great Valley professor

Jablokow becomes second woman to receive Spira Outstanding Design Educator Award

MALVERN, Pa. — Kathryn Jablokow, associate professor of engineering design and mechanical engineering at Penn State Great Valley, is the recipient of the 2016 Ruth and Joel Spira Outstanding Design Educator Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Established in 2001, the award recognizes a person dedicated to furthering engineering design education through vision, interactions with students and industry, scholarship and impact on the next generation of engineers, and whose actions serve as a role model for other educators to emulate. Jablokow’s achievements were recognized on Aug. 23 at the ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conference, where she received the award. Jablokow joins an impressive group of 15 past recipients, which includes some of her previous mentors and colleagues. Jablokow is only the second woman to have received the Spira award since 2001; the other, Alice Agogino of the University of California, Berkeley, was the first female recipient just last year.

Since joining the Penn State faculty in 1990, Jablokow has dedicated her efforts to design engineering research and pedagogy. Her 26 years of research include National Science Foundation and industry-funded projects that focus on engineering innovativeness, cognition-based design, high-performance design teams, and ideation flexibility. She was also essential in developing — and now directing — the unique multidisciplinary engineering design option for Penn State’s undergraduate general engineering degree. In addition to educating students in the Philadelphia area and at University Park, Jablokow is one of three Penn State engineering faculty members who teach a massive open online course (MOOC) on creativity, which has attracted more than 250,000 students from around the world.

For Jablokow, receiving the prestigious national award represents multiple honors. Not only does it bring attention to design engineering at Penn State Great Valley and at University Park, where she is a faculty member in the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs, but it also recognizes her achievements in a discipline in which there are far fewer women than men. When Jablokow was elected an ASME Fellow in 2009, she became one of only 66 women in an established group of 2,882.

Engineering design encourages creativity and flexibility in engineers as they generate solutions and build prototypes, and Jablokow hopes the design element — which she believes has an appeal to young people in general — will bring more women into the field.

“Design sits at the heart of engineering, where synthesis and analysis meet and mingle,” said Jablokow. “The open-ended nature of design makes it challenging to do and to teach, but it’s tremendously satisfying when you get it right.”