This fall, Norman Muzzy returned to Iowa State University with 35 years of industry experience to teach classes as a lecturer in agricultural and biosystems engineering.
Muzzy graduated with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Iowa State in 1978. He also completed more than 60 credit hours of graduate coursework related to communication and training technology and industrial technology at the University of Northern Iowa.
Like many students, Muzzy took a few turns during his adventure at Iowa State. He initially majored in electrical engineering because of an interest in computers, but switched to mechanical engineering, all the while keeping an interest in electronics.
Shortly after graduating from Iowa State, he went to work for John Deere and designed tractors for 35 years before retiring this fall. Muzzy said he wanted to work for the company because he grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota, and his father owned a John Deere dealership.
“I had been around tractors and farming my whole life, and I worked at the dealership assembling machines and selling parts,” he said.
As a design engineer and project manager for John Deere, Muzzy initially worked on the mechanical elements of electrical systems for tractors, which included wiring harnesses, alternators, starters and lamps.
He later worked on fuel tank systems, sheet metal parts, utility tractors, specialty tractors, and the HVAC systems in the operator station. He was also the worldwide functional group leader for chassis engineering in the utility tractor business.
He says switching academic majors from electrical engineering to mechanical engineering was “a good fit” because his interests were primarily on the mechanical elements and controls, which he said really came into play about five years after he’d started at John Deere.
While working in industry, Muzzy was always interested in teaching at the college level. He mentored new engineers at John Deere and gave adult learning lectures, but he had never worked with college students as an instructor.
He says he began to shelve the idea that he would have an opportunity to teach as plans for retirement neared. But then he received an email in March 2013 from the local chapter of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
In that email, Iowa State’s Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering posted a teaching position that targeted individuals with industry experience to help with capstone courses.
Muzzy looked at the job listing and saw three things he instantly liked.
● It would allow him to teach at Iowa State where he earned his degree.
● It would allow him to be in the College of Engineering.
● It would allow him to teach design engineering.
”It resonated with all the things that I wanted to do,” he said.
Now, he teaches AE/BSE 415 and 416, Agricultural Engineering Design I & II, which are part of a two-semester capstone sequence. He will teach both classes again in the spring, and co-teach AE/BSE 218, Project Management and Design.
He says the coursework includes design projects and lectures on design methodology, a trade he practiced at John Deere.
“The intent of the course is to have students learn how to deal with projects solving problems that are not well defined and coming up with solutions that possess combinations of different elements,” he said.
In addition to teaching, Muzzy is an adviser for the Iowa State 1/4 scale tractor pull team, the Cyclone Pullers. He also farms in northwestern Minnesota, and he built several robots with his family as Team MOE for the TV show BattleBots. His wife, Melissa, graduated from Iowa State in mechanical engineering. They have two sons who are tooling designers for a company in Waterloo.