Engineering Creativity

Kellen Haile ’18 builds smarter robots and stronger communities
by Heidi Hormel
AFTER EXPLORING a few different career avenues, Kellen Haile ’18 says he’s landed where he belongs: working in robotics.

Haile is a senior manufacturing engineer at TE Connectivity in Harrisburg, Pa., a company that designs and manufactures sensors and connectors for major industries including automotive, energy, broadband communications, health care, aerospace and defense. As part of TE’s automation manufacturing team, Haile develops industrial and collaborative robots used to automate manufacturing processes.

“I’m glad to be at a point in my career where I’m finally doing robotics engineering,” Haile says. “In addition to being the lead on a recent project, I was the one to set up, program and condition the robots.”

Kellen Haile with robotic arm in front
Photo: Shu Wang
Tinkering in Bucknell’s makerspaces helped Kellen Haile ’18 develop a passion for robotics.
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.

It took a few steps to get here — including a stop at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda, Md., where he worked on materials science and thermal technologies for Navy ships after graduating. That position came with a SMART (Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation) scholarship, which Haile received in 2017 from the U.S. Department of Defense. It’s a highly competitive award — only 14% of the students who applied that year were selected.

Although Haile learned and grew tremendously in that role, he says the work he does today is better aligned with his core interests. “When the maker movement gained momentum on campus, it was the perfect outlet for me,” says Haile, who majored in mechanical engineering. He also served as president of the Bucknell chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and was a member of the Mobile Autonomous Robotics Club.

Outside engineering, Haile took a Digital Sculpture class with Professor Joseph Meiser, art & art history, that was particularly impactful. “The class used 3D modeling and computer-aided design software to create art projects,” he says. “Some pieces would be fabricated using equipment in the Makerspace. It gave the technical aspects of engineering an artistic twist.”

Today, he’s still leaning into that creative side: He recently painted an eight-foot textured piece of art and handcrafted a wire-art trellis. He’s also exploring entrepreneurial interests. He recently relaunched his clothing brand, KEY (Keep Empowering Yourself), which he initially launched while at Bucknell, and is working with other Bucknellians on a business idea for a pet grooming product.

“I aim to further my career by gaining engineering, project management and leadership skills,” he says. “I hope to follow my passions, build upon my creative ideas and make an impact on the world.”