Class of 2004
“It’s like a science fair for grown-ups.” That’s how Adam Schneider, president and design engineer of ConceptWorks, describes his business. The company, located near Elkhart Lake, Wis., designs and builds prototypes, industrial products and other custom projects.
“We’ve done everything from putting flushing, working toilets inside a minivan to painting alligator hides to developing a handheld device to clean the teats of a cow before you put the milking machine on,” he says.
Then there was the job dubbed “Project Awesome,” when Case New Holland asked for a trade show display that could showcase 26 of its service parts for combines. The end product was a massive display that featured a human-powered contraption made from a real combine seat, modified recumbent bike, LED lights, sound effects and air cannons that shot into the crowd when the user pedaled hard enough — and that seized the attention of everyone at the trade show. Schneider’s team made it happen in just 82 days.
“If there’s something I drew from my time at MSOE, it was how to multitask and work quickly — that skill set paid dividends on that project alone,” Schneider says.
Schneider considered four universities before settling on MSOE. “MSOE really stood out in its focus,” he says. “I knew if this was something I was going to pay for, I wanted the most robust education I could get.”
While on campus, he worked as a research assistant for Vito Gervasi, manager of research and development in the Rapid Prototyping Center, and participated in Research Experience for Undergraduates, a summer program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. One of his projects with Gervasi involved casting features at the sub-milliliter level, which ultimately led to a patent.
Schneider also was on the wrestling and track teams; tutored calculus, physics and chemistry through MSOE’s Learning Resource Center (known today as the Raider Center for Academic Success); worked as a resident assistant; and greeted visitors at the Campus Center Information Desk.
“Having such a full plate forced me to manage my time well so that after I left MSOE, the world became easy,” Schneider says.
Of course, Schneider was used to hard work. In high school, he worked in a machine shop. When he was just 22, his former bosses from the machine shop offered him a job as vice president and general manager of a business venture that ultimately became ConceptWorks. “I worked my tail off at 16, doing the grunt work that nobody else wanted to do,” he says. “Today I’m president and CEO of a company because I impressed someone when I was 16 years old.”
In 2013, Schneider, fellow MSOE alum Jason Gudex and another partner purchased the company. Schneider and Gudex — who were on the same senior design team at MSOE — have worked together over the past decade, helping to expand the company’s engineering capabilities, diversify its customer base and double its staff.
“But the greatest professional accomplishment in my life has been graduating from MSOE because it was not a walk in the park,” Schneider says. “I went to school and I got so much more. I had real-life experiences.”
Photo: By the end of Adam Schneider’s senior design project, his team had created more than just an award-winning basic utility vehicle — they’d forged lifelong friendships. He and his teammates — Jason Gudex, Jason Schneider, Jason Mueller, Kurt Snyder, Bill Alsteen and Randy Rumpf — have stood up in each other’s weddings and try to get together once a year. During their recent 10-year reunion on MSOE’s campus, they visited with their team advisor, Dr. John Pakkala, and recreated the photo they took senior year (with a picnic table standing in place of their vehicle).