Kellen Haile '18 developed his engineering aspirations — and skills — early in life.
"When I was 10 years old, I modified my Nerf gun to make it shoot twice as far," he says. "I joined a Young Engineers Society program and won first place for my projects in fourth and fifth grade."
Haile continued to be active with STEM-related programs throughout middle and high school — each project further confirming his interest in pursuing an engineering career.
He was accepted into Bucknell and its first-year STEM Scholars program, which provides STEM majors the opportunity to arrive on campus early to gain research experience. Before his first classes began, Haile was in the lab exploring the mechanical behavior of layered polymer components with mentor Professor Constance Ziemian, mechanical engineering. When the research was published in the scientific journal International Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, Haile was named a co-author — as a first-year student.
As part of TE's automation manufacturing team, Kellen Haile '18 develops industrial and collaborative robots used to automate manufacturing processes. Photo by Shu Wang
As Haile continued to hone his skills, classrooms and labs weren't the only spaces he gained knowledge and found inspiration. "The Maker Movement was just gaining momentum, and Bucknell's makerspaces became the perfect outlet for me," says Haile, who also joined Bucknell's Mobile Autonomous Robotics Club. "They allowed me to give the technical aspects of engineering an artistic twist."
During his senior year, Haile received a prestigious SMART (Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation) scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The competitive scholarship program recruits highly skilled civilians to work in technical fields in support of the DOD. The scholarship came with an offer of employment with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda, Md., where Haile spent one year developing materials science and thermal technologies for Navy ships.
Although Haile learned and grew tremendously in that role, he says he knew he wanted to return to work that better aligned to his core interests. Haile found that fit at TE Connectivity in Harrisburg, Pa., a global company that designs and manufactures sensors and connectors for major industries including automotive, energy, broadband communications, health care, aerospace and defense.
As a senior manufacturing engineer and project manager within TE's automation manufacturing team, Haile deploys industrial and collaborative robots that are used to automate manufacturing processes.
"I get the opportunity to lead projects for automation equipment and manufacturing lines that get deployed at TE sites around the world," he says. "I love what I do because I get to use my technical and soft skills learned at Bucknell and can apply them in a team that makes an impact in nearly every industry. Getting to work with automation equipment, such as robots, has been a great way for me to work on innovative and cutting-edge projects."
Beyond letting him do work that he loves, TE has also provided Haile with an opportunity to make an impact in the local community. As co-chair of its African Heritage Employee Resource Group's community pillar, Haile has created STEM-related educational activities for two area schools and helped the city of Harrisburg plan its Juneteenth commemoration.
He sees a direct link between this work and his two terms as president of Bucknell's chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a group whose members he is still in contact with. "Being a part of a community such as NSBE provides new opportunities and connections that you wouldn't have in your normal day," he says. "These inclusive organizations form a welcoming environment for all members in addition to setting individuals up for success through professional development, learning opportunities, networking and community service."
Outside of work, Haile is still leaning into his creative side while also exploring entrepreneurial interests. He relaunched a clothing brand, KEY (Keep Empowering Yourself), which he developed while at Bucknell, and is working with other Bucknellians on a business idea for a pet grooming product.
"I hope to follow my passions, build upon my creative ideas and make an impact on the world," he says.