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University of Utah electrical engineering alumnus John Cadwell was maybe 13 or 14 years old when he took apart an old pinball machine, scavenged it for parts and built new toys out of it.

“I would ride my bike to the dump and fill sacks of vacuum tubes taken from TVs that had been discarded,” he said about those days hunting for parts for his electronic projects. “I had boxes of vacuum tubes.”

Decades later, Cadwell molded that fascination for creating electronic devices into a successful family business. Cadwell Industries, Inc., based in his hometown of Kennewick, Wash., and founded in 1979 by Cadwell and his brother, designs and builds neurophysiology devices for hospitals. They include electromyography (EMG) and electroencephalography (EEG) instruments that measure electrical activity in the muscles and brain.

Cadwell received his bachelor’s at the U in 1972 and an MD at the University of Washington, but he concentrated his career on creating new medical devices “because I’m an engineer at heart.”

At the time they began their company, EMG and EEG machines were difficult to use and unreliable. “But once you had the ability to throw a microprocessor into it, you could simplify it considerably,” he said. So in 1980, the company created the first microprocessor-based EMG machine in the world. Over time, Cadwell Industries achieve success creating neurophysiology devices that were portable and had more functions that competing machines. Today, John Cadwell is the company’s chief technical officer and director of engineering while his brother, Carl, is president and CEO.

John Cadwell’s time at the University of Utah was “easily the best four years of my life,” he said, thanks to professors who pushed their students to innovate and create.

“You pick up so much in a good education,” he added. “You learn about technologies that once existed and what might be possible down the road.”

~The University of Utah College of Engineering Communicator magazine December 2015.