After an internship with Thales Visionix Inc., a developer of helmet-mounted displays for the aviation market, Denise Karabowicz joined the company full-time as a design engineer upon her 2012 graduation from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering.
“I have had the privilege of working with Denise for more than a year now and can attest to her drive and charisma which positively impacts the manufacturing and engineering community at large,” said Scott Metcalfe, Thales Visionix senior program manager, in nominating Karabowicz.
“Her passion for engineering extends outside of the work environment,” Metcalfe added. “Her positive energy and attitude have been on active display with the FIRST Robotics program for more than a decade. Since participating on the Lego Building Club as a sixth grader, she went on to coach and mentor teams, dedicating her free time to developing the engineers of tomorrow. Since 2012, Karabowicz has been the head of, and expanded the scope, of Fox Valley Robotics and currently actively coordinates the three divisions consisting of more than 40 teams [first through 12th-graders] in the Chicagoland area.”
At Thales Visionix, Karabowicz currently works on projects from the requirement stage, through design and prototype into production kick-off. “Our project duration is typically less than two years so the short time line allows me to be engaged in every step. I’m also involved with material selection, vendor evaluation, and vendor support,” Karabowicz said.
Robotics initially drew Karabowicz into advanced manufacturing. “I’ve known I wanted to be an engineer since middle school when I first got involved with robotics but it wasn’t until halfway through college that I settled on mechanical engineering,” she said. “My job responsibilities include following designs from initial work into production. Being able to see the big picture allows me work towards production during the concept and prototype phases. There are many different ways to design towards a set of requirements but they all not equal in assembly, manufacturability, sustainability, usability or maintainability. I enjoy [and thrive on] taking all these things into consideration when making new parts or redesigning old parts.”
In her current work, Karabowicz is most excited about new and emerging technologies. “As materials and technologies get stronger and lighter, it’s allowing us to make head worn equipment better by expanding what we can do within our requirements,” she said. “I feel like I am at the beginning of the right path and am really excited to get to work on new projects that allow me to grow and increase my knowledge base.”
Between robotics, high school and college, there have been many people who helped Karabowicz pursue her career path. The biggest standouts were two graduate students that were teacher assistants, she recalled, in the two-semester mechoptronics (an interdisciplinary study of mechanical, biological, chemical, optical and electrical systems and processes) course she took in college at USC. “Ben Bycroft and Prabu Sellapan helped me understand the big picture: engineering is part of a solution and what we do helps people. I didn’t expect to go into the niche field of helmeted mounted displays but their guidance during my last two years of school have helped me care so much about what I do.”
For aspiring engineers, Karabowicz advises them to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. “I had graduated from college and was path seeking when I was offered a summer internship at Thales Visionix,” she said. “After it was over, I knew that I liked what I was doing and the engineers I was working with. I was very fortunate when that internship resulted in a job offer.”
This article was first published in the July 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read all of the 2016 30 Under 30 Profiles as a PDF.