Michigan Tech chemical engineering alumnus William S. Hammack ’84 has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Hammack is honored for innovations in multidisciplinary engineering education, outreach, and service to the profession through development and communication of internet-delivered content.
Hammack earned a BS in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech, and an MS and PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois — Urbana-Champaign. He taught at Carnegie Mellon for a decade before returning, in 1999, to the University of Illinois, where he now teaches in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
As an engineer, Hammack’s mission over the last 25 years has been to explain engineering to the public. His media work — from his work in public radio to his books to his pioneering use over the last decade of internet-delivered video— has been listened, read, or viewed over seventy million times. He also recorded more than 200 public radio segments that describe what, why and how engineers do what they do.
Hammack’s videos (The Engineer Guy), with more than 1.2 million followers on YouTube) are licensed under creative commons so they can be fully used to serve the public. They have been used by both industrial giants and small firms to train their workforce, in college classrooms to hone budding engineers, in K-12 classrooms, and by home schools to excite the next generation of engineers.
Among his many other honors, Hammack in 2020 was awarded the Hoover Medal, given by a consortium of five engineering societies. The award is named for its first recipient, US President Herbert Hoover, who was an engineer by profession. Established in 1929 to honor “great, unselfish, nontechnical services by engineers to humanity,” the award is administered by a board representing five engineering organizations. Previous winners include presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter; industrialist David Packard, the founder of Hewlett-Packard; and inventor Dean Kamen.
In 2018 Hammack was presented with the Carl Sagan Award for the Public Appreciation of Science, given by the Council of Scientific Society Presidents to recognize outstanding achievement in improving the public understanding and appreciation of science.
Hammar is the author of seven books. His newest, a book on the engineering method, “The Things We Make: The Unknown History of Invention from Cathedrals to Soda Cans,” will be published later this year. In it Hammack shares human stories, perception-changing histories of invention, and accessible explanations of technology–revealing a panorama of human creativity across millennia and continents.
Hammack has also received the Public Service Award from the National Science Board, the Ralph Coats Roe Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Distinguished Literary Contribution Furthering the Public Understanding of the Profession (IEEE), and the President’s Award, American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Read more on his website, billhammack.org.