SCN’s Hall of Fame: Bob Coffeen

The scene is Washington Dulles airport,sometime around 1959. As the only onewith any communications experience athis engineering firm, Bob Coffeen was taskedwith developing a system of prerecordedannouncements in various languages for theairport. It’s a standard technology in everyairport today, but ‘it was fairly revolutionaryat the time,’ he said.Back then, recordings were made onmagnetic tape. Soon after, Coffeen wasdesigning airport audio systems across thecountry.

‘I became self unemployed,’ Coffeen said,chuckling, about the trajectory his career tookfollowing the job that effectively changed thecourse of acoustical engineering as we know it.

Coffeen is a professor at the University of Kansas, School of Architecture, Design andPlanning. He served as an engineering officerfor the U.S. Army before going to work forBurns and McDonnell Engineering Companyin Kansas City. From there, he foundeda consulting firm in the early ’60s,which later became Coffeen Fricke andAssociates.

Bob taught the electro-acoustics class I took at the University of Kansas my last semester in college.



About Matthew Peterworth

I currently work as a Technology Specialist at Henderson Engineers in Kansas City – a Mechanical-Electrical-Plumbing (MEP) design firm. Prior to that I was a Project Manager for Information Technology Services (ITS), the central IT department at the University of Texas at Austin. As of July 2008 I am a Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) through BICSI. And as of June 2011 I am a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in the great state of Texas. Please follow me on Twitter @mpeterworth.

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