BYU professor receives highest societal honors from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Larry Howell, BYU professor of mechanical engineering, was recently honored with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Machine Design Award, one of the highest honors that the society can bestow upon its members.

The Machine Design Award is given to those who have made outstanding strides in the field of machine design. Many of these strides fall under the categories of research, development, application and education.  

Howell believes that his research is filling a very real need, and that new and innovative technology is a necessary response to the challenges that are facing today’s world.

“We have a great future in machine design,” said Howell. “If you look at the grand challenges that face engineering and the future, we see that we’re going to require new machines that haven’t been created before, and new devices that haven’t existed.”

Howell’s research and education have focused on compliant mechanisms, a form of mechanical engineering that is rapidly working its way into modern technology and everyday use. Organizations such as Apple, Google, NASA and Hewlett Packard have found beneficial ways to incorporate this mechanical advancement into their hardware.  

According to Howell, compliant mechanisms are “devices that get their motion from things that deflect and bend, rather than using hinges.” These mechanisms allow engineers to create products with fewer parts, stronger motion and repeatable motion.

“They have much higher performance, lighter weight, higher precision and no need for lubricants,” said Howell. “It’s one of the reasons why NASA is interested in them.”

His research and development in the realm of compliant mechanisms has made Howell quite popular in the world of mechanical engineering. Many of his recent projects have made headlines and gained notoriety for the university. Such projects include the DNA nano-injector, as well as the origami and NASA space venture.

Currently Howell’s research has funding from the National Science Foundation, the Air Force, NASA and others, and is allowing him and his team to push forward with their research.

The ASME Machine Design Award was granted to Howell on Monday, August 18.  Additional information on ASME or the award itself can be found on their website

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