Hometown: Cumberland, RI
Major: Mechanical engineering, German
For many young car enthusiasts, it’s all about the engine, the horsepower, the mechanics. But for Dave Powers ’14, the big idea is in the ergonomics.
“I like to tell people that I don’t want to make the motor of a car, I want to make the seats. I think it’s more interesting to make something that has to account for the human; it’s more interesting to design something that is really focused on the user,” said the mechanical engineering and German major.
And he put that user-focused perspective and his tactile abilities to good work toward that goal during his five years in URI’s International Engineering Program.
He spent a year in Germany, first studying at the Technical University at Braunschweig and then interning at rail company Deutsche Bahn. And while he was there, he enrolled in a Goethe Institute class in German and passed a high-level exam demonstrating his proficiency and fluency. One professor said he “absorbed German language and culture like a sponge.”
In fact, he said he spoke more German after a single German 101 class at URI, than he could French after four years of French in high school. So it’s no surprise that he became a German tutor here, chaperoned a student trip to Germany with two URI professors, and received the University’s Award for Excellence in German,
At Deutsche Bahn, he worked mostly on computer modeling of train systems, and once back in Rhode Island, he followed that up with an internship at the Rhode Island offices of Supfina Machine Co., a company he calls “half American, half German” that builds superfinishing machines for clients like General Motors.
Now, focused on the next steps in achieving his career goals he’s deciding between several graduate schools for a master’s degree in industrial engineering, and working toward that job in the ergonomics field. “I’ll be taking some psychology classes and biomechanics classes so I can design products that incorporate how people think and how we move,” he said. “Whether I end up designing keyboards or chairs or whatever, I just want to make things that work the way you want them to.”