Dr. Bill Farrow
Dr. Bill Farrow is a gadget guy. Whether it’s playing with his plasma arc lighter while camping or helping students launch mini-satellites into near space, Farrow is interested in how things work, and how to make things work better.
“My favorite subject to teach is the Design of Machinery,” he said. “All the mechanisms, moving parts—that stuff always fascinated me when I was young and still does now. You get to see a real, practical application of geometry. It’s so fun.”
Farrow first worked at MSOE as a part-time lecturer from 1992-95 while earning his doctorate in mechanical engineering at Marquette University. His wife, Connie, and his father were also teaching at MSOE, in the industrial engineering program.
Even though he left to work as a research engineer for Eaton Corporation, Farrow said he had already been “bit by the teaching bug.” He would rejoin MSOE’s Mechanical Engineering Department full time in 2001.
While at Eaton, Farrow was a member of Eaton’s Innovation Center. He worked with the corporation’s different divisions to find opportunities to merge products and find new markets for them. “It was a lot of looking at the needs, and information gathering, and showing the value for the customer, as well as Eaton.”
Because of that experience, Farrow said he wanted to be part of the CREATE Institute and promote the entrepreneurial mindset at MSOE. “When students start making the connection between what they’re doing in class to solving real problems for real people, they’ll start to see each class as a piece of their experience to make them more proficient at solving problems,” said Farrow.
It was the servant-leadership piece that made the invitation to be a CREATE Faculty Fellow hard to turn down, Farrow said. “I have been raised that you don't put yourself in front of other people to help them, even if you're the one in charge,” he said. “It’s all about making sure you support everyone around you in order to get that whole group to move in a direction that's going to be positive.”
Farrow would like to see the CREATE Institute promote more inter-departmental collaboration at the student level. One way he’d like to achieve that is through a community makers’ space, where students can share skills and knowledge, and just let off some steam.
Farrow has always had a passion for aeronautics and astronautics. He worked at McDonnell Aircraft Company in St. Louis right after graduating from Purdue University. He was also a visiting faculty researcher at Jet Propulsion Laboratories in California. He now advises the student branch of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), as well as a team that competes each spring in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition (NASA RMC).
For the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, an educational branch of NASA, Farrow helps coordinate high-powered rocketry competitions for universities in the state. He runs a summer program in which students develop what is analogous to a satellite, flying a payload of less than six pounds on a helium balloon to near space.
When he finds time to relax, Farrow and his wife like to camp. But while his wife is communing with nature, Farrow is more likely playing with the solar-powered LED lights or a newfangled hatchet. They have a daughter who is an illustrator and a son who graduated from MSOE with a software engineering degree.