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CCAC assistant professor of Mechatronics named Engineering Unleashed Fellow

Assistant Professor Justin StarrPITTSBURGH—Community College of Allegheny County Assistant Professor of Mechatronics Dr. Justin Starr has been named an Engineering Unleashed Fellow for 2021. The designation recognizes leadership in undergraduate engineering education. A select group of 27 individuals from higher education institutions across the country have been named Fellows this year. Each fellowship is accompanied by recognition, advanced project work, funding and community with other Fellows. 

Engineering Unleashed is a community of 3,800 faculty members from 340 institutions of higher education, which is powered by KEEN (Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network), a 50-partner collaborative that shares a mission to graduate engineers with an entrepreneurial mindset who are equipped to create societal, personal and economic value. 

In a letter to CCAC leadership, Douglas Melton, program director of The Kern Family Foundation, said, “Justin is truly an ambassador of excellence for your institution and is distinguished both through a Fellows Project and through interactions with the greater Engineering Unleashed community.” 

The nomination and fellowship process began with Starr’s initiative to participate in one of the many Engineering Unleashed Faculty Development workshops. These workshops are designed and delivered by a collaborative group of subject matter experts who serve as faculty members at more than 25 institutions. They attract faculty participants from across the country, focusing on the development and application of an entrepreneurial mindset whether in teaching and learning, research, industry or leadership. Working with peer coaches for up to a year, Fellows complete the work and contribute to the Engineering Unleashed Community through an online publication, which is shared within the platform. The workshop’s peer coaches nominated Starr, and his subsequent application was recognized by an independent review committee of past Fellows. 

Dr. Starr began his CCAC journey in 2002 as a high school dual enrollment student. He earned his Associate of Science in General Studies, then went on to get his Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science from the University of Virginia, and his Master of Science and PhD in Materials Science & Engineering from the University of Florida. He worked for QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solutions Group on attachments for bomb-disposal robots and DARPA programs on Anti-Submarine Warfare. He was also chief technology officer of RedZone Robotics Inc., a Pittsburgh manufacturer of sewer inspection robots, until they sold the business in 2018. He joined the CCAC faculty as an adjunct in 2015 and as a full-time faculty member in 2019. 

Starr recalled how his dual enrollment experience shaped his education and future career: “Taking CCAC classes while I was still in high school was the best thing I could have done to get ready for a four-year institution. They made me ready for the rigor and workload of college, and showed me that I had so much to learn—tough for a know-it-all kid to understand. I also learned to work with a variety of students of different ages and backgrounds that I never would have encountered otherwise. I am a much better team player as a result of my CCAC experience.”

He also reflected on what he enjoys about his current role as assistant professor of Mechatronics: “When I joined CCAC, I had the opportunity to train students to be the employees I would have loved to have hired: students with a passion for dissecting devices, seeing what happens and hacking together awesome solutions. I love that I get to spend each and every day giving students valuable skills and the confidence to use them.”

Mechatronics Technology is CCAC’s signature automation systems program where students learn the integrated skills of supply chain, process technology, robotics/artificial intelligence and electrical systems. 

Learn more about CCAC’s Dual Enrollment program