Ken Pickar
Visiting Professor of Mechanical Engineering

California Institute of Technology
101 Thomas, Mail Code 104-44
Pasadena, CA 91125
(626) 395-4185


E/ME 105

E 102

E/ME 103

Useful Links





Lineup of Courses for 2014-2015

Great news for progress on E 105 to be taught in the winter, which I am now calling Design for the Disabled. An alliance has been formed with Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, California. We are working out the details of joint lectures that will include rehabilitation experts and people with disabilities. The class is an E class open to all as it could useful to CS as well as Mechanical and other engineers and biologists. Of course it should be interesting to Medical Engineering students as well. We are inviting Art Center to participate as well and that ball is rolling.

FALL 2014 E102b Entrepreneurial Development

The course is designed for students who are curious about entrepreneurship because they see starting a company as a career option or simply to address the question, "what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?"

The object of the upcoming class is to build a business plan around a technology – preferably one from Caltech. If you have something whose implications you would like to explore that would be great. Alternatively, you could choose one of the technologies that have been suggested by Caltech professors or other students.

Some thoughts:

This is a Learn/Do process and the "Do" is to actually write a credible business plan.

This is a Team exercise and each Team of 3-5 people learns how to work together and learn fast.

This is a high communication exercise where writing and speaking your ideas in class and to people who can help you on the outside is critical. Networking to get to the right people is very important.

This class will take full advantage of local resources. This includes Caltech professors who have started companies and will share their learnings, our Caltech e-club, local Angel groups (with an angel-mentor for each team), LA incubators and accelerators, etc.

WINTER 2015 E/ME 105 Design of Products for the Developing World

Despite the title, there will be a change of venue for this class in 2015. After 6 years in Guatemala and 4 years in India, we are taking a year off and moving the class closer to home. In 2014 in India we stressed products with a medical application. We would like to continue this but look at more local needs. The objective will be to design products that can aid people who are elderly or handicapped. Simple observations over the years have convinced me that this is an area that is opportunity rich. The technologies can be mechanical, electrical or software but the objective is to look for opportunities where a simple device can make a huge difference in peoples' lives. The class will begin in the field where students will observe patients with handicaps. They will talk with doctors and rehabilitation specialists and the patients themselves to identify problems and get device suggestions. We will then design and build prototypes and work with outside companies for implementation.

SPRING 2015 E103 Management of Technology

This is a course I have taught for many years but not in the last academic year. I missed it! The idea here is for a student to choose a technology and tell me what is going to happen in the next 5 years. I usually threaten in the beginning to withhold the final mark for 5 years but no one believes me. The class is heavy on research and interpretation including interviewing putative experts, searching for the applications that drive adoption, researching technology limits, Looking for analogies, reading the literature and making some educated guesses. After long experience with the class I can see that the student teams' (another team-based course) track record is pretty good. Technologies that students said would not happen (space power) haven't and technologies that students said would (autonomous transport) are happening.

Two publications about E/ME 105 have appeared. In the (Spring) Issue of EandS, see "Bridging the Gap" by Katie Neith the Caltech Magazine." Also read Chuck Stern's article "From Pasadena to Kerala: Inside Caltech's Product Design For The Developing World Course" in The Dish Dai

Visiting Professor of Mechanical Engineering, 1998-present,
J. Stanley Johnson Visiting Professor of Mechanical Engineering, 1999-2003

Caltech Associates talk on "Product Design for the Developing World" class. More on Making Wheelchairs for the Developing World.

Interview on the Frank Peter's show

Teaching Areas of Interest
My classes are taught at the junction of science, engineering and business by applying my background in mechanical and electrical engineering technology management and in physics. I am particularly interested in the start-up and continuous growth of technology-based companies, and the modification of normative product development processes to address developing world challenges. 

Faculty Advisor
Entrepreneur's Club
Engineers for a Sustainable World
Consulting Club

Business Background (partial)
Allied Signal (now Honeywell) Senior Vice President of Engineering and Technology
GE Corporate R&D Manager of The Electronics Laboratories
Bell Laboratories Member of the Technical Staff

Boards of Director Positions

Public: Neustar (1999-2011) IPO New York Stock Exchange in 2005
Ness Technologies (2003-2008) NASDAQ
Level One (1999-2000) NASDAQ sold to Intel in 2000

H2Scan (2004-2011 )
(also many advisory roles)

Non Profit:

Albany Medical School and Medical Center (1988-1992)
Los Angeles County Regional Food Bank (2004- ). Central food distributer.
South Coast Botanical Garden (2005- ) Los Angeles County Botanical Garden in Palos Verdes
Intelligent Mobility (2007- ) non profit wheelchair provider spun out of E/ME 105
(Also many advisory committees)

Tech Coast Angels (Southern California early stage investing network)
Executive committee LA Chapter (1999- )

B.S., Queens College, City University of New York;
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania (Critical Velocity of Superfluid Liquid Helium Films)

The Associated Students of Caltech (ASCIT) Award for Excellence in Teaching (2004-2005)