College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Engineering alum joins forces making protective gear

Kathy Engholm masks

During this time of uncertainty, Cyclone Engineers are sticking to their core engineering principles to improve the lives of others around them. On-campus, Cyclone Engineers have stepped up by making masks, face shields and desk shields. But these efforts go far beyond Ames. Cyclone Engineers across the country are putting their engineering skills to good use to do their part in fighting COVID-19.

Over 1,000 miles away, Cyclone Engineering alum Kathy Engholm (‘80 elec engr) found herself putting her engineering skills to the test to sew masks for frontline workers in New Mexico.

Engholm recently retired after spending over 33 years working at Tektronix. While her official engineering position may have come to an end, her values learned as an engineer didn’t. When she received an email from a local fabric shop looking for volunteers to help make thousands of masks for healthcare providers, the National Guard, Navajo Nation, and other at-risk groups, she eagerly accepted the challenge.

“We were continually working to increase the efficiency of our production line so we could finish more masks per day. I got to help brainstorm and test many ideas for changing the order of the steps, combining or dividing processes at the various stations, modifying the pattern, and adjusting how work was done at each stage. My job experiences in manufacturing, program management, and design for manufacturing were really helpful,” Engholm said.

It’s no secret that it takes a village to make these projects work. The fabric store owners donated supplies, space and wear and tear on their machines. Employees who were out of work due to the shutdown volunteered their time on the masks.

It doesn’t matter the location, situation or job status. When a community is in need, engineers take action and rise to the challenge presented around them.