College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Bringing diverse experience to senior design

With past experiences and knowledge gained in industry, new aerospace engineering faculty member Tom Gielda is confident he has what it takes to add value to the department’s capstone senior design course.

Gielda graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1980 from Michigan State University (MSU), at which time he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant  in the U.S. Air Force. After an unfortunate illness, he returned to his studies, receiving a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from MSU in 1984 and a PhD in aeronautical engineering from North Carolina State University in 1987.

The first few years Gielda was in industry, he spent much of his time in research, working with some of the brightest people in the world, including Hans von Ohain, the co-inventor of the jet engine from the University of Dayton, and engineers from McDonnell Douglas Research Laboratories (MDRL).

“It was a great opportunity to work people who had so much influence on the field,” explains Gielda. “I contributed to exciting research in hypersonic aerodynamics and learned a lot from my mentors.”

After five years at MDRL, he moved to Michigan in 1993 and began a career with Ford Motor Company as a staff technical specialist. He was responsible for a variety of tasks associated with testing the functionality of several of Ford’s parts.

Impressed by the skills Gielda had shown, the company promoted him to distinguished technical fellow at its Visteon branch in 2000. In this new role, he became involved in engine vehicle thermodynamics, climate control, and simulation-based design. Gielda also presented several lectures about the automotive industry.

During one of those lectures, he drew the interest of another Fortune 500 company—Whirlpool. In 2004, Gielda was hired as the director of technology for the company and was responsible for the mechanical systems across all Whirlpool products. Gielda’s wealth of experience and knowledge began to multiply as he traveled internationally to the various Whirlpool centers and even helped create a center in Pune, India.

Gielda with Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, at the Khosla Ventures Cleantech Discussion in 2010.

“A lot of great things came out of my work at Whirlpool,” Gielda says. “It was by far the most responsibility I’ve ever had, and although at times it was demanding, I enjoyed the challenge.”

Gielda’s career has made him a valuable asset to the education of young engineers, which is exactly why he accepted the faculty position at Iowa State.

In fact, Gielda already has big plans for the senior design courses he will be teaching, AerE 461 and 462. Students from both Iowa State and North Carolina A&T will collaborate to participate in the Boeing 2040 VTOL design challenge.

The challenge consists of 12 students designing, building, and testing a Medevac (Medical Evacuation) air vehicle.

Gielda hopes the collaboration will give students a sense of what it is like to work with people outside their institutions, preparing them for their careers after graduation.

“During the years of travel I did for Whirlpool, I saw the capabilities coming out of many foreign companies and the outsourcing of engineering tasks,” explains Gielda. “My goal is to give these students an idea of what they need to make an impact in industry to keep these jobs in the U.S.”