California State Polytechnic University, PomonaProfessor of Mechanical Engineering
Mariappan Jawaharlal, Ph.D., has been a professor of mechanical engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona since 2010. Previously, he was an associate professor at Cal Poly Pomona after teaching at Rowan University in New Jersey and Kettering University in Michigan.
With a unique pedagogical style that applies a hands-on, learner-centered discovery approach, Dr. Jawaharlal has pioneered the use of scenario-based learning to teach engineering. This approach has been adopted by the engineering community across the country. Through interactive scenarios, students learn to work their way through real or simulated situations.
Jawaharlal is passionate about the success of his students. He has been instrumental in redesigning bottleneck courses—those that limit students’ ability to progress toward graduation. With funding from the CSU Office of the Chancellor specially earmarked for the redesigning of foundational courses, Jawaharlal created brief, engaging video tutorials to supplement his classes. As a result, failure rates in those courses have decreased.
Recognizing that learning goes beyond the classroom, Jawaharlal was the Cal Poly Pomona founding advisor for Engineers Without Borders and the Biomimicry Society, which give students the chance to work on real-world projects to create affordable, sustainable designs. He also founded the school’s K-12 robotics outreach program, Robotics Education through Active Learning (REAL), and co-founded the Femineer Program, which inspires and empowers female K-12 students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In 2015, the Femineer Program was one of only 150 programs nationwide recognized by the White House for its commitment to action.
Jawaharlal’s research includes life-centered design, sustainable development, design theory and methodology, assistive devices and biomimicry, with the aim of creating a more sustainable world. He was the first mechanical engineer to become a fellow at the Biomimicry Institute.
Jawaharlal received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and his master’s at the People’s Friendship University of Russia in Moscow.
“Real learning occurs when students are led through a guided discovery process rather than being told," says Jawaharlal. "For such learning to occur, my role is to find meaningful ways to engage learners. I always ask myself, ‘Can I describe the concept that I want to teach to a fifth-grader?’ If not, I have not mastered the concept myself and I have to work on it.”