Engineering student marshal eager to make positive impacts

Mechanical engineering undergraduate student Madison Reddie exemplifies academic success and a passion to help the world

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Madison Reddie, a student graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, has been named the fall 2020 student marshal for the Penn State College of Engineering.

Madison Reddie will serve as the Penn State College of Engineering's student marshal during the fall 2020 commencement ceremony on Dec. 19. Credit: Image provided by Madison ReddieAll Rights Reserved.

Reddie earned several honors during her undergraduate education, including earning a spot on the Dean’s List every semester. She said her journey to mechanical engineering began when she decided to pursue a creative, design-focused path.

“I really liked science, so I wanted to approach design from a technical background,” she said. “Since mechanical engineering happens to be the broadest engineering field, I thought that would give me a lot of options to pursue different technical application areas.”

In addition to her mechanical engineering degree, she also earned a certificate in engineering design.

As an undergraduate researcher, she collaborated with faculty on several projects during her time at Penn State. Two were conducted with John Carroll, distinguished professor of information sciences and technology, and focused on creating assistive technology for people with disabilities. Reddie also researched how to improve the ergonomics of bus operator workstations with Matt Parkinson, professor and director of the Learning Factory in the College of Engineering and Reddie’s faculty marshal. 

As a Schreyer Honors College student, Reddie also completed an undergraduate thesis studying and improving the accessibility of design research, with the goal of better translating academic knowledge to guide real-world impacts. 

“It’s not easy for industry designers to use the latest research coming out of universities,” Reddie said. “So often professors make simplified tools to facilitate the use of their research by people who probably aren’t total experts in the field.”

In her thesis, she studied an existing application, the Virtual Fit Tool, which combines data on body measurements for industries like car manufacturing. 

“With this data, someone designing a car could figure out how high the car seat should be, where should the pedals be located, things like that,” she said.  

However, Reddie explained the construction of this tool, and other similar translations of academic research, often fall short of meeting an industry professional’s expectations.

“They don’t quite resonate most of the time,” she said. “So that is where my thesis comes in: I looked at this tool that was created by professors and did a usability study.” 

According to Reddie, only one of the 30 users was able to apply it to a simple problem correctly. But with adjustments, she demonstrated ways to make the information more readily accessible and understood. It is her hope that these types of tools can be better designed to maximize the impact of academic research within industry.

These experiences gave her a strong foundation in academic research and encouraged her to pursue her doctoral degree. Reddie plans to study global development engineering, also known as humanitarian engineering, because she is committed to using her knowledge and skills to improve the world around her. 

“I don’t want to waste my engineering skills, because there are so many urgent problems that can be addressed using engineering and design,” she said. 

She is beginning that journey now, within a class offered by the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepeneurship (HESE) Program. This semester, Reddie is working on a team that has partnered with Siemens to bring affordable irrigation to disadvantaged farmers in Kenya.

“This feels meaningful to me and like it’s a useful avenue for my skills,” she said. “In the future, I’m going to keep looking for ways to use my knowledge to make the biggest impact.”

The commencement ceremony will be held virtually at 2 p.m. on Dec. 19.


Last Updated December 04, 2020