In my 20 year professional career, I have worn many different hats in the various R&D positions I have held at a number of outstanding organizations. I have worked on the design and development of sports equipment and orthopedic devices. I also have considerable experience in advanced analytical and computational methodologies, ranging from custom algorithm development to nonlinear FEA to advanced forward dynamics simulations used in Virtual Product Development (VPD) applications. I have also worked in performance evaluation and analysis, ranging from sports performance to orthopedic implants to motorcycles, trucks, and off road machinery. And I have extensive experience in mechanical testing including dedicated test labs, field testing, the use of advanced measurement technologies, and integration of mechanical test results with virtual simulation modeling. In all of these roles, I have been responsible for both program and project management, as well as management of technical personnel.
If I had to define my professional specialization, the terms Research and Scientist would most likely be at the forefront. I have been very fortunate to have considerable professional experience working with advanced technologies in various scientific disciplines. I have always gravitated towards roles that can be described as “blue sky” or “what if” research initiatives. This most likely stems from my athletic background in which I learned at a young age to not listen to what was impossible, but to have a mindset similar to the Adidas campaign of “Impossible is Nothing.” That has definitely influenced my professional development in Advanced Research and Innovation positions.
My view of higher education is that most college graduates that obtain a BS degree and enter the professional work force think that they know everything. Those that continue on to pursue MS degrees are the type of people that start to question things. PhD students are those that question everything. While I never attempted to pursue a PhD, I definitely took to the mindset of questioning everything in the research initiatives I have participated in. That is not to question for the sake of argument, but rather to question if every step in the scientific process being employed is optimized. I believe that mindset is critical for development of truly innovative ideas and products.
I found that I gravitated towards applied research in private industry applications versus specialized research programs in a university setting. Most all advanced technologies and techniques come from these specialized university based applied research programs. My roles have typically involved using these next generation technologies and techniques and applying them to private industry applications to create and implement internal processes that can be used to design innovative market changing products.
Starting with my first job at the Medical College of Wisconsin as a Research Technician in a joint role with the Cardiovascular Center and Department of Anesthesiology, I found that I gravitated towards applied research programs. While performing both chronic and acute cardiovascular research studies, I found the most professional gratification from advanced technologies. I was very fortunate to work with Dr. David Waltier MD PhD at MCW. Dr. Waltier always challenged me to look into advanced research capabilities including advanced measurement systems and analytical modeling capabilities. I was able to assist on some finite element analysis (FEA) studies examining cardiovascular modeling and comparison to chronic and acute occlusion studies. He also had me research measurement system technologies that could monitor advanced cardiovascular function ex vivo. That was the eureka moment where I knew what course I wanted to take in my professional career, to analyze problems for which little is known and research methodologies and solutions that could be further investigated as potential solutions to these engineering challenges.
My next career path pointed me towards a small orthopedic biomechanical laboratory start-up where I worked as a Research Engineer. Here I was able to perform applied orthopedic biomechanics research while also taking graduate coursework in biomechanics in the Marquette University Biomedical Engineering program. This was my first introduction to the application of Kane’s Dynamics techniques for advanced orthopedic implant analysis and specifically the predictive capabilities of forward dynamics modeling. I also performed benchtop testing as well as servo-hydraulic testing of orthopedic implants. This position also allowed me to advance my analytical skillset in developing FEA studies for comparison to servo-hydraulic micromotion implant studies and histological spinal fusion device retrieval studies.
The financial constraints of a small non-profit laboratory led me to Rexnord Technical Services (RTS) as a Research Engineer in a Product Evaluation Engineer role. RTS is an independent, accredited testing laboratory which provided confidential testing, analysis, and engineering services. Here I advanced my experience with servo-hydraulic testing for product performance analysis. In continuing my experience with advanced techologies, I learned and implemented Remote Parameter Control (RPC) servo-hydraulic testing programs for Harley Davidson, John Deere, Oshkosh Truck, and Caterpillar. I also performed FEA studies for comparison to durability and servo-hydraulic stress testing. My work at RTS really allowed me to expand my program and project management skills as a Product Evaluation Engineer and later as the Group Leader of the Test Lab. The most important thing I took away from my work here is the management and leadership skills I learned. Jeff Gale was the first of a few supervisors that I have worked with that provided me with a first-hand observation of what Level 5 Leaders are from the Good to Great book. Jeff was a very smart engineer that had great technical skills; but he was an even better manager and more importantly a leader. He led our group with a tireless work effort and always produced results despite any challenges presented. Personally, he was a very good manager that allowed me to work independently but was always there when I needed any technical help or project management questions. His management and leadership skills helped lead me on the path to finding out what true leadership and vision is all about and how important it is to an organization.
My next career move was a very big move as I relocated our family from Milwaukee, WI to San Diego, CA to work at Callaway Golf. I was brought out to Callaway Golf by Dr. Steve Ehlers to work as a Research Scientist in his Research Advanced Technologies group at Callaway Golf. My initial responsibility was working with advanced measurement technologies to analyze the golf swing and to develop player profiles for Product Player Matching and Club Fitting initiatives. I developed, operated, and managed the Player Performance Bay in the RCH Callaway Golf Test Center employing a number of different advanced technologies. This included an NDI Optotrak system, Polhemus electromagnetic system, an interchangeable on-board diagnostic (OBD) MEMS-based shaft measurement and data acquisition system, high speed video, a dual system launch monitor that recorded both pre-impact club motion and post-impact ball launch conditions, and custom pressure sensors to measure dynamic human grip forces during the swing. Many of these advanced technologies were used simultaneously in multi-sensor swing studies (MS3) for advanced scientific analysis of the golf swing all triggered for impact synchronization.
Dr. Ehlers was an outstanding technical manager. He had a small group of very talented and specialized technical personnel in his Research Advanced Technologies group. A lot of research projects from this group led to next generation materials, modeling processes, internal design and development processes, and ultimately innovative product improvements for the consumer. Dr. Ehlers believed in letting our group work independently on a number of different advanced research projects while he oversaw the plans and management of these diverse projects and made sure we received the resources that we needed. Dr. Ehlers is another manager and leader that was definitely a Level 5 leader and he always had the vision of what was necessary to create a truly great R&D group.
I also had the pleasure to work for Dr. Alan Hocknell as a Senior Research Scientist in R&D Product Customization and Innovation and Advanced Design groups. Dr. Hocknell came to Callaway Golf from the Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute where he received a PhD in structural mechanics and initially worked in Dr. Ehlers group as well. Dr. Hocknell was one of the first scientists to really use advanced virtual modeling techniques to create the modern day high performance driver. His use of virtual modeling techniques were behind the introduction of many innovative and advanced technologies found in today’s golf clubs, including variable face thickness technologies, oversized drivers and irons, and movable weightings to create higher MOI clubs. It was in Alan’s group that I concentrated more on the development of virtual modeling techniques, specifically Digital Human Modeling initiatives. This resulted in development of a variable degree of freedom (DOF) forward dynamic swing model that allowed for parametric analysis of golf club properties for any swing profile using player kinematic joint angular time history inputs from processed motion capture data. Dr. Hocknell was a big proponent of using performance metrics to drive design programs. Dr. Hocknell was a great technical resource for me in virtual modeling applications within our Innovation and Advanced Design group.
My final manager at Callaway Golf was Steve Ogg, who was my manager when I was an Innovation Specialist in the Innovation and Design Group. A lot of my work with Steve pertained to Customization initiatives and focused on player profiling studies and club fitting applications. Working with Steve was a very natural fit for me as he was a big believer in the Good to Great philosophies like I was. Steve was very much a process driven engineer that fit very well with my style and had a technical management style that was based on setting and achieving performance milestones in a timely and orderly fashion.
Steve was the inventor of the Hex ball technology at Callaway Golf. Steve has an aerospace background and used that expertise to put in place the necessary measurement systems and virtual modeling tools combined with well thought out design of experiments (DOE) testing programs to produce the best performing golf ball on the market. Oh, and by the way, he did that from scratch as Callaway Golf just started golf ball design from nothing. Unfortunately, Callaway Golf senior management moved golf ball resources to Top Flite in MA following one of many different corporate restructurings. Steve was moved to the Innovation and Advance Design Group and used those same processes and systems to put together a Customization plan that used advanced measurement technologies for player profiling that would be used concurrently with digital human modeling tools to produce performance enhancing golf products.
Following another corporate restructuring and a flood that wiped out the Test Center for the better part of a year, I left Callaway Golf and started BEST Performance Group. Much of my professional expertise and specialization utilized in my application and service based consulting company is due to the great technical managers I had listed above. They let me work independently on advanced technologies and processes, yet provided great technical leadership and examples that have truly helped shape my professional growth.
One final technical mentor that helped with my professional growth was Shawn McGuan, Founder and CEO of LifeModeler. Shawn helped pioneer the development of human simulation technology in the fields of orthopedics, sports, injury, and rehabilitation with a turnkey software package. He authored LifeMod, a leading biomechanics simulation program, as a plug-in to the ADAMS software suite. Shawn provided me access to his LifeMOD program for a number of different application projects for me with BEST Performance Group. Previously, I had used Kane’s Dynamics techniques for all of my forward dynamics modeling projects. LifeMOD provided another alternative that provided all of the necessary analysis tools in one turnkey solution, including outstanding graphics outputs. It also provided integration with other MSC software packages that worked with ADAMS. LifeMOD provided the perfect platform for VPD biomechanical studies, shortening the time it takes to develop new products by enabling the evaluation of innovative designs in a virtual model of the human body. New orthopedic products can be tested and validated faster and more cost effectively prior to the production of a physical prototype. Shawn was gracious in offering me resources to help train with LifeMOD as well as providing technical guidance on application projects. Smith & Nephew, Inc. recently acquired LifeModeler Inc. While a great opportunity for Shawn and his company, it unfortunately means that LifeMOD will no longer be a stand alone product as Smith & Nephew now owns the technology.