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 102a

E 102b

E/ME 103

Useful Links





Fall 2015 E102b Entrepreneurial Development
It's time to consider whether those great ideas that reside in your laboratory or in the back of your head could be the beginning of a great new company - or not. I have been talking with Caltech Professors about some of their ideas. In addition we welcome your thoughts. I even have an idea of my own I want to throw out. You make a decision on which of the candidates look interesting to you and team selection will begin the process. We will have great invited speakers to give a broad prospective. I have invited Art Center to contribute students to the class. We will also take advantage of the rich Southern California environment with its many incubators as well as the Tech Coast and Pasadena Angels whose meetings we will attend to see how the process works in reality. Although this is listed as a "b" course, it can be taken independently with the "a" course. Here is the text from the Poster we are distributing:

Would you like to start a company or join a start-up? Or just find out more about it? This course will guide you through the process.
Beginning with a good idea based often but not always upon a Caltech technology (we can supply one or you can provide one), you will form a team and be assigned a Skilled Mentor. You will learn:

  • How to protect intellectual property
  • How to determine market feasibility
  • How to create a business model
  • How to write a financial plan
  • How capital markets for new ventures work
  • What is an entrepreneur's life really like, with field trips to local incubators

There will be ample opportunities to hone your presentation skills, learn team skills, exercise your ingenuity, and possibly to create something really cool - and provide new value. The ultimate goal of the class is to create a well-reasoned business plan around your team's technology. Business plans will be judged at the end of the term by a panel of Angel Investor and VC judges!

Credits: 3-0-6, Graded or Pass/Fail
Time: Tuesday and Thursday 14:30-15:55
Location: 115 Gates/Thomas
Who: Open to Caltech and Art Center Students
Prerequisites: E 102a, E103, E 105, BEM courses useful but not required
Professor Kenneth Pickar (
TA Deepan Kishore Kumar (

Past Quarters
SPRING 2015 E103 Management of Technology
This is a course I have taught for many years but not in the previous 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. Technologies explored include "Drones" (Politely called UAVs), "3D Bioprinting", "Restaurant Hardware and Software", "Self-Driving Cars","3D Printing in Private Homes and Education" and "Home Automation and Household Robotics".

WINTER 2015 E/ME/Med E105
We have concluded in the winter quarter E/ME/Med E 105 "Design for Independence from Disability" a class which morphed from Design for the Developing World, taught in previous years. The students designed 7 products to aid people who are elderly or handicapped. All of the projects were generated by Rehabilitation Specialists and the patients themselves.

The class was taught in partnership with Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center (RLANRC) in Downey, California and co-taught with Philip Requejo, PhD (Rehabilitation Engineering) and Andrew Lin, MS Center for Applied Rehabilitation Technology (CART). Nathan Allen from Art Center lectured and Art Center students participated as well on Teams.

Our guest speakers also included people who had to our eyes very difficult challenges. But their human spirit when connected through existing appliances inspired us all.

The Caltech Poster session Final was reported on by the Pasadena News which describes the projects in the students words.

These projects included:

  • Wheelchair for patients with hemiplegia
  • Pressure ulcer prevention system
  • Low cost tablet computer mount
  • Weatherproof wheelchair canopy
  • 3d Printed prosthetic tools
  • Open source eyetracking software
  • Ergonomic crutch foot

There was a second Final where the students presented their results at Rancho to their collaborators and future users. It was a very exciting event!

In the (Spring) Issue of ENGenius, see "Bridging the Gap" by Katie Neith

Ken Pickar
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)