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Winn Receives Chancellor’s Citation

Rick Winn

Rick Winn

Professional Technician (II) Rick Winn of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department has been selected as one of the 10 staff members at UMass Amherst to receive the 2016 Chancellor’s Citation. Winn is responsible for the supervision of the entire MIE student shop, recently upgraded and renovated into the Altra Industrial Motion Innovation Shop, and has worked in the MIE department since 2002. Even though the MIE enrollment has increased from 219 in 2006 to 521 in 2015, Winn has continued to manage the shop with no additional support.

The UMass Chancellor’s Citation is awarded to exempt or non-exempt staff members or teams of employees who have demonstrated outstanding performance in helping the university achieve its goals and objectives. Specifically sought are examples of original contributions to the university, attainment of high-priority university objectives, performance "beyond the call of duty" and, achievement of significant improvements in productivity or savings in university operations.

“In addition to his role as the instructor and trainer to our students, he oversees the safety and supervision of students’ use of power and hand tools in the student shop for both lab work and term projects,” explains MIE Department Head Sundar Krishnamurty. “As part of his responsibilities, he manages our graduate teaching assistants in the operation and usage of machine tools, as well as educates them to be effective Teaching Assistants in the laboratory setting. Finally, our students and faculty consider him the go-to person for any and all assistance with the design and fabrication of specialty research equipment and apparatus used in their classes or research.”

Professor Krishnamurty also notes that Winn’s responsibilities and contributions have grown over the years – requiring him to go above and beyond the call of duty to keep up with the emerging new technologies and tools so that he can be there for our students.

“For example,” says Krishnamurty, “we have recently remodeled the machine shop and purchased a new CNC abrasive water jet cutter, a new 4 axis CNC machining center, and several new 3D printers. The productive, safe, and economical operation of these machines requires significantly greater expertise not only with the machinery itself but also with the computers and software needed to operate the machines. Recognizing the dramatically changed scope of shop operations, Rick has not only voluntarily attended several workshops to gain necessary expertise in the handling of this new equipment, but he is also leading our efforts to reorganize the shop and introduce a more formal management of finance and inventories.”

The department head adds that Winn is an extraordinary asset to our students and faculty and a pivotal player in elevating the visibility of the MIE department, the College of Engineering, and UMass Amherst through his unique contributions to our students’ many independent study projects, such as our nationally recognized UMass Supermileage Vehicle Team and the newly started UMass Rocket Team.

“With the college and department’s emphasis on experiential learning,” says Krishnamurty, “I envision Rick playing an even more supportive and mentoring role in our students’ hands-on, class-related, or independent-study projects.”

Former MIE Head Don Fisher says that Winn helps design and fabricate one-of-a-kind research equipment and apparatuses used in undergraduate instruction, while also overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Innovation Shop.  

“In that capacity,” says Professor Fisher, “he aids in the instruction, safety, and supervision of students' use of power and hand tools for both lab work and term projects. Additionally, he trains graduate teaching assistants in the operation and use of machine tools in order to bring them to a point where they can supervise undergraduates in the shop setting. As the ongoing director of the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory which contains over one million dollars of equipment, I have interacted with Rick on the numerous occasions where we needed his help in the shop.”

Fisher adds that Winn keeps safety uppermost in priority, developing new training programs for students as the machines and procedures keep changing over time. Winn has also introduced on his own countless new procedures into the shop to keep our students out of harm’s way, including his training efforts so students can enhance their learning experience through hands-on projects in our design and capstone courses.

“For example, on his own he has helped draft a set of rules which students must follow and is in the process of circulating that set of rules to the faculty,” says Fisher. “Moreover, Rick appreciates the considerable risks that are posed by the powerful, new equipment that has been acquired recently, equipment that can cut through steel inches thick in a matter of seconds.”

Associate MIE Department Head Jim Rinderle notes that Winn is the person most responsible for the very important prototyping component of undergraduate mechanical engineering education.

“Rick works with an engineering student population that varies dramatically in previous, hands‐on experience and in the level of supervision needed to successfully and safely complete design projects,” says Professor Rinderle. “Irrespective of background, Rick always seems to get students on the right track. He reviews their plans and drawings, calling their attention to important issues that might not be correct or might not have been addressed. He suggests alternative approaches and guides the students in making sensible revisions. He gets students started, guiding them closely at first to be sure that work practices are safe and sound and then advancing students as they gain skills and confidence.”

As Fisher concludes, "Without Rick's efforts, the mission and vision of the Innovation Shop would not be realized." (April 2016)