Career strikes right chord

Loving what you do has at least one drawback.

“I’m up to about 40 guitars now,” said Josh Hurst. “But I only play that one guitar, my  favorite.” As a senior designer at Fender Guitar in Corona, Calif., Hurst is able to support his guitar habit easily.

Hurst, a 2001 graduate of the mechanical engineering technology program, has worked at Fender for seven years designing electric guitars, from the shapes to the electronics. His focus is primarily on the aesthetics. In the past year, Hurst designed 30 guitars. A normal year would see him work on three or four. The difference? The company’s new CEO, who took over in August 2010, has asked for a modernization of their products.

“The new year is all about innovation,” Hurst said. “We are looking at brand new shapes and a lot of new electronics. The electronics that are in our guitars now are from the 1940s and 50s, so we’re updating that into current technology.” Most of his recent designs are still in the prototyping stage and won’t be unveiled until later this year or early 2013.

At the end of 2011, Hurst received the company’s President’s Award for Innovation. He believes the honor stemmed from his ability to move a new design series from concept to prototype in two weeks, just in time for an industry trade show last fall.

He said he can trace that work ethic to two of his first classes within the Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology: Computational Analysis Tools (MET162) and Applied Statics (MET111).

“MET 162 was so structured in logical thinking, and it put you in that mindset. MET 111 reinforced the discipline in finding an answer using a logical thought process,” he said. “Now, whether I’m fixing a dryer or designing a guitar, I can point to the lessons I learned in those classes. You had to find a way to figure it out.”

Hurst can impart some of this same knowledge when he helps Professor Mark French with his annual guitar-making workshops. Since 2007, he was returned to Purdue each summer to assist with design software, guide some of the manufacturing steps, and then answer questions about the guitar business.

“It’s just a matter of people wanting to hear what I do, famous people I’ve worked with, projects I’ve worked on,” he said. “A lot of these people are Eddie Van Halen fans, and I’ve worked on a lot of his designs. He’s probably the biggest name. But there’s a lot of players I’ve designed for that are not as famous.”

Hurst started his guitar-making career right after college at Gibson Guitar. After four years, he made the move to Fender, where he has been promoted three times. He’ll be a principal engineer beginning this summer, which he considers the peak of engineering positions in his department.

“Fender is a phenomenal company. They allow me to be the engineer that I’m supposed to be,” Hurst said. “They allow me to be creative, think outside of the box, and they let me run with it.”