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Frank J. Fronczak
Mechanical Engineering

The 2007 Benjamin Smith Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching—Professor of Mechanical Engineering Frank Fronczak

Passion is a defining trait of Professor Frank Fronczak’s teaching style. Since joining the College of Engineering in 1983, he has been instrumental in expanding the product design curriculum to help students transition from study to practice.

His enthusiasm, which, according to one student, “effuses from every pore,” has made Fronczak a driving force in developing and teaching the design curriculum in the mechanical engineering department. He teaches the courses ME 349, Senior Design, and ME 549, Product Design, and also regularly instructs ME 545, Fluid Power. More than an instructor, he has been active in expanding the design curriculum into multiple semesters of coursework and serves on the department design division curriculum committee and the college academic programs, curriculum and regulations committee.

In his design courses, Fronczak faces the challenge of guiding students through open-ended and largely self-directed projects. His students and colleagues alike hail his methods of giving students input and advice while allowing them to experience project management themselves.

“Professor Fronczak would not just tell us what the better design was; rather, he made us fully realize the problem and come up with the solution ourselves,” says a student.

Fronczak strives to make subjects not only understandable, but also interesting. He uses hands-on models and relatable examples to teach complex engineering principles, such as bubble nucleation explained through carbonated beverages, and encourages students to explore concepts in assignments such as small group projects. Says a colleague: “I have great respect for his ability to energize the audience, to pique their interest in the material, and to present it in such a way that the students leave the class with enthusiasm and a clear understanding of the subject.”

Also high on Fronczak’s priority list is making himself approachable and available for students outside of the classroom. He gives his time to any students who ask for it, even staying on campus after hours to work with struggling design groups. Fronczak also has advised the UW-Madison student section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers since 1989.

Fronczak has received three Polygon Teaching Awards, two Pi Tau Sigma Distinguished Teaching Awards and the SAE Teetor Award. He was made a member of the Wisconsin Teaching Academy in 2004. Says one student: “His creative assignments and ability to inspire are why I will not forget what I have learned in his class—even if I never see another hydraulic pump for the rest of my life.”