Simulating life – story of John Katona

Few days ago I was watching Robin Roberts accepting her Arthur Ashe award at this year’s ESPY. In her acceptance speech she said, “It’s not so much what we accomplish, it’s what we’ve overcome that you remember the most.” We all had to overcome something to become who we are today. But there are very few who faced such formidable obstacles in life that we cannot possibly imagine their struggles, but their courage and determination to take control of their destiny inspires us all. Today I want to share such a powerful story with you. This is the story of John Katona, an engineering student at Oakland University who is confined to a wheelchair after a terrible accident while he was in high school, but instead of giving up John discovered ways to make a difference through his passion for music and math.

To learn more about John’s story, watch this video

John is currently doing his masters in Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISE) from Oakland University. At Oakland, he found interests in studying ergonomics, simulation, operations research and lean manufacturing. Today he is a teaching assistant (TA) for a lab, where he helps undergraduate students learn how to optimize production operation scenarios using Siemens Tecnomatix applications.

The ISE department at OU wants to make sure that its graduates like John have the skillsets they need to succeed in the 21st century job market. For that, it has formed partnerships with many of the leading automotive OEMs and suppliers in the state to ensure students get opportunities to work on real industrial projects. As Prof. Bob Van Til said in the video, “This is where engineering is going; the tools (and) everything is going digital.” It is this belief that’s guiding ISE department at Oakland University to make investments in PLM and digital manufacturing applications so that it can teach its students the skills of the future.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at