2022 Engineering Leader Under 40: Zac Nelson, 32
Zac Nelson, Co-Founder and Head of Integrations, Pico MES, Redwood City, CA
Zac Nelson, 32
Co-Founder and Head of Integrations
Redwood City, CA, United States
BS Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Why Zac is an Engineering Leader
Like a lot of engineers, Zac Nelson makes things better. But his forward-thinking wisdom appears when you least expect it. One day he’s having a conversation about the recent Top Gun movie, and the next day he will suddenly appear with a solution so unique, you realize you just witnessed someone who might actually see the future. In addition to his career accomplishments, Zac is just plain brave. From patent development in the corporate world to creating a software company from the ground up to speeding down Swiss mountains at 50 km/h, Zac holds nothing back.
Achievements, Advancement & Career-related Industry Contributions
As an engineering student at MIT, Zac kept very busy embedding himself in the world’s latest innovations, including Formula SAE and Tesla, 3D modeling medical devices and creating and building a 3D food printer that performed so well, the final working prototype was featured in an exhibit at a museum in Barcelona, Spain. During his time at Ford Motor Co., Zac authored and co-authored 11 patents in 3 years on automotive innovations, including embedded electronics, biometric data analysis and last mile mobility solutions. At Ford, he also leveraged technology like 3D printing and MATLAB simulations to improve automotive performance and fuel efficiency. Zac also aligned his electrical engineer capabilities with software programming while at Alta Motors, including incredibly precise LC-frequency sensor controls with an accuracy of 0.05 mm to monitor and control battery manufacturing. Taking all of his experience, success and bravery, Zac teamed up with two other people to launch Pico MES, where he not only leads the integrations team, he onboards and connects with customers with a calm and relatable style. Each week his team integrates new customer tools or devices to further the reality of digitally connected factories.
Non-work-related Activities & Hobbies
Zac discovered numerous bike parks in the Swiss Alps and competed in two mountain bike races in Switzerland. His love of racing combines his three fundamental loves: exploration, adrenaline and machines.
Zac was the primary subject of a 2013 article in Popular Mechanics called “Code Monkeys, Not Grease Monkeys are the Future of Car Modification.” The same project also was featured on the front page of Wired’s website.
Zac’s family owned a residential and commercial iron fabrication company and Zac spent most summers with an angle grinder and a MIG welder building staircases, hand railings and ornamental iron installations.
Why Zac chose this career
Zac has been an inquisitive mechanic ever since being able to hold a wrench. His love of machines drew him into engineering, and what really fascinates him now is the combination of electrical and mechanical systems to make the world move. Manufacturing and IoT is a hotbed for innovation, systems design, and fast paced improvement. Every day is a new challenge to integrate a new tool or a new piece of equipment or a new line. And if making improvements in production practices also gives him an edge in mountain bike racing, that’s just a bonus.