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Renaissance Engineer: Innovator, Poet Phil Rodenbeck Gets Most from His Talents

August 17, 2012

By Dale Long, Director of Media Relations

         Rodenbeck with Sculpture

Phil Rodenbeck is featured next to a statute honoring famous poet Max Ehrmann. The alumnus is a two-time winner of the Ehrmann Poetry Contest.

Inventor, poet, innovator and inspirational leader are elements that make Phil Rodenbeck one of the most well-rounded students to walk on the Rose-Hulman campus.

After all, how many students have earned three patents for Toyota Motors, have invented a novel automotive shock absorber and have developed an innovative new tool for project planning?

He's also had time to be a two-time winner of an Indiana poetry contest, including grand-prize honors this year; he's been active in Terre Haute's Poetry at the Grounds social gatherings and he's created an illustration that graced the cover of Rose-Hulman's Ink literary magazine.

"Phil is a rare breed. Everyone who works with Phil becomes better at what they do, because Phil has the ability to inspire others," proudly states Corey Taylor, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English and Ink's faculty advisor. "Rose-Hulman was fortunate to have Phil (as a student) for several years."

Rodenbeck arrived on campus from Valparaiso, Indiana in 2006 and remained to earn bachelor's (2010) and master's (2012) degrees in mechanical engineering. Along the way he also completed an internship and co-op at the Toyota Technical Center, where he invented three now-patented technologies: a magneto-rheological elastomer wheel assembly with dynamic tire pressure control, a magneto-rheological coil spring and a dynamic shock absorber.

His Rodenbeck Project Tower, developed with assistance from Engineering Management Associate Professor Terry Schumacher, Ph.D., provides a 3D graphical tool that represents project tasks in a style that's currently unavailable through PERT or Gantt tools.

And, finally, he turned an undergraduate capstone design project into an ingenious graduate initiative that earned this year's Outstanding Graduate Thesis Award. His design of a cost-effective semi-active damper, completed under the guidance of Vice President for Academic Affairs Phillip Cornwell, Ph.D., has caught the attention of the automotive industry.

"Phil was a fantastic student," says Cornwell. "I use the term 'advise' very loosely in relating my assistance with his master's thesis project, because he was extremely self-motivated and needed very little advice. He is incredibly creative and hardworking."

Rodenbeck's engineering talents are now being used at Parametric Solutions Inc. in Jupiter, Florida. He continues to write poetry in his spare time.

"When you slice it all apart, everything I do is creative problem solving," he says. "If you give an engineer a novel problem, you will get a novel idea. Taking something from your mind and making it real so that it can help someone-that's the creative process behind an engineer."

And, the creative gifts behind Phil Rodenbeck.