SWE Partners with National Inventors Hall of Fame to Showcase Women Inventors

Six SWE members were featured in a Women’s History Month exhibit.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) once again partnered with the Society of Women Engineers to create an exhibit honoring six women whose innovations have advanced their fields and improved the lives of others.

Composed of large and vibrant panels positioned within the atrium of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the exhibit honored the contributions of each inventor and explained the impact and significance of their professional work. The exhibit was displayed throughout March and remains available on the NIHF website: https://bit.ly/3OKl5fo. The following SWE members were featured:

Chieko Asakawa, Ph.D.

After a swimming accident left her blind by the age of 14, NIHF inductee Chieko Asakawa decided she would not allow the loss of her sight to deter her from pursuing a career in technology. While working for IBM, she invented the Home Page Reader, the first practical voice browser to provide effective internet access for computer users who are blind or visually impaired. Her contributions to accessibility technology continue to benefit people around the world.

Olive Dennis

Just the second woman to receive a civil engineering degree from Cornell University, Olive Dennis worked as a research engineer for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In 1928, she received a patent for a ventilator that improved air quality in rail cars, allowing passengers to control airflow without the need to open windows. Additionally, she was instrumental in helping design the Cincinnatian — a train packed with innovations, including individually reclining seats and easy-to-clean surfaces.

Nelia Mazula

Following her immigration to the United States as a child, Nelia Mazula returned to Mozambique to help transform the country’s energy infrastructure. She later moved back to America and transitioned her career to software engineering. Mazula earned five U.S. patents that have enhanced efficiency, reliability, and safety in the energy sector by improving 3D computer-aided design in the development of petroleum processing and refining equipment and facilities.

Roberta Nichols, Ph.D.

As a child, Roberta Nichols enjoyed helping her father fix vintage cars and took a particular interest in the internal combustion engine. As she grew into adulthood, she continued to pursue her passion in engineering and landed a job with Ford. There she became the manager of the company’s alternative fuel department and developed the spark timing controls and methods for regulating the amount of fuel supplied to engines that use two different fuel sources.

Paula Stenzler, D.Eng.

Paula Stenzler took her knowledge and experience designing automated-equipment tools for the defense industry and applied it to designing amusement park rides for Universal CreativeSM. During her 25-year career with Universal Orlando Parks and Resorts, she managed multiple redesign efforts at Universal Studios® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure®. As an advocate for the development of an innovative and diverse workforce, Stenzler also served as the first chair of SWE’s government relations and public policy committee.

Martha J. Thomas

As a pioneer in lighting research and design, Martha J. Thomas worked as a scientist for Sylvania for more than four decades. She was proud of her role as a working mother with four daughters, and she both established and supervised two pilot plants for the manufacture of phosphor, the material used to coat the inside of fluorescent lights. Over the course of her career, she held 24 patents in lighting and helped advance the development of the fluorescent bulbs we use today.

–SWE Editors