Cultivating the next generation of engineers

Mechanical engineering professor wins SAE award honoring contributions with a lasting impact on humanity.

To say that Ramesh K. Agarwal, Ph.D., is prolific is an understatement. Over a distinguished career spanning 40 years, he has worked in various areas of computational science and engineering, including CFD, computational acoustics and electromagnetics, computational materials science, and computational geo-mechanics and combustion. In his time in the field, he has authored and co-authored more than 600 publications, and given plenary, keynote, and invited lectures at national and international conferences worldwide. He also continues to serve on several academic, government, and industrial advisory committees, and is a Fellow of 22 societies, including SAE International. And now, among his many prestigious honors, national and international awards, he has received the SAE Arnold W. Siegel Humanitarian Award. This award honors those whose mobility industry contributions have made a significant, positive, multi-generational impact on the world.

Recognizing “a big problem right now is: how do we motivate younger children to go into STEM?” Agarwal has worked with K-12 students to help them understand the field and spark their interest in STEM disciplines. While editing a book titled, “When the Wind Blows,” published by Holiday Press, he was challenged to explain aerodynamic theory in a way that could be understood by a 5-year-old. “Sometimes, it is not easy to [simplify theory] like this. You think an idea is straightforward, but maybe it isn’t when you try to explain it to younger students,” said Agarwal. And yet “once I dived into them, they were enjoyable challenges.” He has spent the past six summers serving as a mentor for high school students, providing them with research experience under the STARS Program administered by the University of Missouri—St. Louis. In this role, he found that “students have interesting perspectives and are very curious about things in STEM. I try to make it exciting for them.”

Agarwal’s passion for working with youth is a source of admiration from his peers. “Very few of us can imagine themselves to be engaged in such activities after an illustrious technical career,” said colleague Bharat K. Son, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering at Tennessee Tech University.

As one of the world’s top aerospace scientists, Agarwal’s breadth of work and impact on the education of today’s youth makes him the ideal recipient of the SAE Arnold W. Siegel Humanitarian Award. “[The award] has been a major highlight of my career. It has brought me a great deal of personal satisfaction knowing that my work has a human dimension to it, which has impacted the life of young children to high school and college students to professionals. At this stage in my life, it is very important for me if my work and efforts can motivate next generation to STEM disciplines to address the problems of energy, environment and resources facing humanity. This award is a validation of my efforts in this regard which is a source of great pleasure and satisfaction.”

To learn more about the SAE Arnold W. Siegel Humanitarian Award, and other SAE Awards, please visit the SAE Awards page.

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