Mechanical Engineering

Contact Information

Higgins Laboratories, 208
Phone: +1-508-831-5498
Fax: +1-508-831-5680

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Holly K. Ault

I have enjoyed technical topics since high school, when I was encouraged by my physics teacher to enroll in a pre-engineering course and learned computer programming. I was one of the first women to attend WPI and earned all three of my degrees here, being the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from WPI. Prior to my graduate studies, I worked in industry for several years, both in Massachusetts (Norton Company) and Illinois (Olin Corporation), and was usually the only female engineer in my engineering group. As an alumna, I am proud to be able to pass on the heritage of a WPI education, and, in particular, to be able to mentor our female engineering students. In my role as a faculty member, I am able to work on a day-to-day basis with the remarkably talented students at WPI. As Director of the Melbourne Project Centre and advisor in the Global Projects Program, I share meaningful academic and personal experiences with a wide variety of students in different majors on their IQP projects. I enjoy the breadth and depth of these global projects, and find them to be an excellent learning opportunity for me as well as the students. Teaching the design courses challenges me to develop students’ creativity, problem solving abilities, and other professional and technical skills. I am involved in several outreach activities such as Project Lead the Way and Camp REACH, both aimed at increasing the K-12 pipeline of students, particularly females, to enter engineering.

Research Interests

  • Mechanical design
  • Engineering graphics
  • Assistive technology
  • Engineering education.


  • BS, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 1974
  • MS, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 1983
  • PhD, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 1988

Featured Publications

  • A. Hoffman, T. Madsen, S. Cassidy, S. LeMarbre and H. Ault, “Development of an Ergonomic One Arm Drive Manual Wheelchair”, Proceedings of the 2008 Annual RESNA Conference, Washington DC, June 26-30, 2008.  
  • Lieu, D.K., S. Sorby, and H.K. Ault (contributing author, 3 chapters), Visualization, Modeling and Graphics for Engineering Design, Delmar Cengage Learning, 2008.  
  • Ault, H.K., and S. John, “Assessing and Enhancing Visualization Skills of Engineering Students in Africa: A Comparative Study”, Engineering Design Graphics Journal, v74 n2 p12-20 Spring 2010. EDG Division 2011 Editor’s Award Best Paper  
  • Ault, H.K., “The Inside Story: Revealing the Contents of CAD’s Black Box”, Proceedings, ASEE Annual Conference, Vancouver, BC, June 2011.  
  • McCahan, S., H. Ault, E. Tsang, S. Magleby, A. Soisson, and M. Henderson, , “A Multi-Dimensional Model for the Representation of Learning Through Service Activities in Engineering”, ASEE Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX, June 2012.

Professional Highlights

  • 1993 Aries Annual User Group Meeting, recognition for sustained contributions to Aries Technologies through the WPI Undergraduate Projects Program, presented by Aries Technologies President Larry McArthur, May 4, 1993
  • Lise Meitner Visiting Research Scholar, University of Lund, Sweden, Sept-Dec, 2001
  • WPI Trustees’ Nicoletti Award for Outstanding Service to the Community, 2005
  • WPI Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Academic Advising, 2010
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