Making Teaching Fun: Meet Professor Kevin McDermott

Professor Kevin McDermott’s classes on robotics and automated systems are immensely popular with NJIT students. McDermott was recently honored by the Newark College of Engineering for his inspired teaching.

NJIT has a lot of good professors. Take, for example, Kevin McDermott, a professor of industrial engineering, whose classes on robots and automated systems are immensely popular with students.

His students get to spend a lot of time in the Robotics Lab, which McDermott founded and directs. The lab is outfitted with robots, CAD equipment and programmable logic controllers – the micro-processing machines that control automated systems. In that lab, he teaches students the theory behind robotics and automation. Then, he has them put that theory into practice by actually building robots. 

In his Industrial Robotics class, McDermott even divides students into teams that then build and program mobile robots. At the semester’s end, the teams compete in a contest to see whose robot can best navigate an obstacle course and deposit balls into a bucket. When the competition is over, the students delight in “smashing their robots and destroying them,” McDermott says with a smile.

McDermott teaches in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, but his classes attract students with an array of majors, including computer science, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering and computer science.  All of these students come to learn how to manage today’s manufacturing centers, which are usually fully automated and rife with industrial robots. His classrooms and labs are like miniature automated workplaces, where McDermott teaches them how to manage the technology and systems that power modern industrial workplaces.

And taking his classes pays off.  For after they graduate from NJIT, many of his students find well-paying and creative jobs working in the pharmaceutical, automobile and electronics industries.

“I love teaching college students the skills they need to run modern manufacturing centers -- sophisticated and pristine places run by robots and automated systems,” says McDermott. “With the skills students learn in my classes, they have no problems transitioning into these top jobs.”

 To honor McDermott’s inspired teaching and dedication to his students, the Newark College of Engineering (NCE) recently gave him the Saul K. Fenster Innovation in Engineering Education Award.  He received the award during the recent NCE Salute Dinner

McDermott’s teaching is informed by several years of engineering experience. Before coming to NJIT in 1982, he worked as an industrial engineer for Bell Telephone Laboratories, RCA Corporation and Westinghouse Corporation. He was also one of the engineers who worked on the NASA Lunar heat-flow experiment during three Apollo missions. 

McDermott’s research at NJIT has been equally successful. One of his research projects earned him a copyright for a computerized robotic database that contains all industrial robot types. His research has, moreover, led to technological enhancements of industrial robots.  He’s also studied Flexible Manufacturing Systems and robotic-based CAD Systems.

He is the kind of teacher-practitioner that NJIT is proud to have on its faculty, and that students are fortunate to have in the classroom. 

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)