Portrait of Richard McManus.

Richard McManus

Tradition and Innovation

For senior Richard McManus, coming to Notre Dame meant honoring his past and building his future

May 13, 2024

Senior Richard McManus Jr. came to Notre Dame with an idea and a rudimentary plywood prototype of a product that could help protect baseball pitchers from injuries.

Now, four years later, he is the CEO of his own company and manufactures a much-refined version of his product—a triaxial force plate that communicates wirelessly with an iPad—from his dorm room.

The product, which measures the force exerted by players’ lower bodies when they throw a pitch, is already being used by the Chicago Cubs, and the MLB team has placed an order for an additional 10 plates.

A picture of McManus' triacxial force plate on the gorund in front of the Golden Dome.
McManus created a product that measures the force exerted by baseball players’ lower bodies when they throw a pitch.

McManus, an electrical engineering major, credits his Notre Dame education, faculty mentors and support from the IDEA Center for helping him to transform the product—and himself.

“My time at Notre Dame has given me the skills needed to succeed in graduate school and as an entrepreneur, but it’s also taught me about the kind of person I want to be,” he said. “I have found a passion here not just for innovation, but for creating technology that helps others lead more fulfilling lives.”

After graduation, McManus will begin a doctoral program in electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, where his initial project will be to research how quantum sensors could be used to improve cancer treatment.

One of the things he has valued most about the Notre Dame engineering program, he said, is its collaborative atmosphere among both students and faculty.

“The community here is just really open to helping everyone,” he said. “I know some rigorous universities have a very competitive culture, but it’s not like that here. We are all rooting for each other and working to support each other.

“That spirit of collaboration is something I hope to take with me to UC Berkeley and into the workplace.”

Richard McManus holds up a series of colorful wires
McManus holding one of the first printed circuit boards he designed in Professor Gregory Snider’s lab.

McManus and co-founder Caleb Mastromonaco came up with the idea for the force plate during an introduction to engineering course in high school, when their teacher and the school’s baseball coach, Jamie Glover, came to the class with a problem. His pitchers—like many others in the sport—were not engaging their lower bodies enough when pitching, leading to more stress on their arms and preventable injuries.

“When pitchers aren’t using their legs enough, the issue is that if you still want to throw with high velocity, you have to over-rely on your arm,” McManus said. “That kind of stress, especially on the elbow, can lead to injuries, which is why we see a lot of pitchers getting Tommy John surgery.”

When he arrived at Notre Dame the next fall, McManus took the concept to the IDEA Center and was accepted into its Student Entrepreneur Pre-Accelerator program. The center connected him with faculty and peer mentors and trained him on the fundamentals of launching a business.

In summer 2021, Mastromonaco, who attended Bellevue University in Nebraska, joined McManus on campus to work with the IDEA Center and refine their idea. And in 2022, their company, Mound Power, won best undergraduate venture in the center’s McCloskey New Venture Competition. The center also provided funding for the pair to travel to the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in 2022, where they caught the attention of the Chicago Cubs.

“We owe so much to Notre Dame and the IDEA Center. They gave us our first look at what entrepreneurship means, and we got really excited by that,” McManus said. “And the mentorship they provided was super helpful especially with navigating our relationship with the Cubs.”

For the last three years, McManus has also helped other student founders explore entrepreneurship, by taking on a role as a startup coach at the IDEA Center. A Grand Challenges Scholar and a Sorin Scholar in the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement, he is also a member of Tau Beta Pi honor society for engineering and Eta Kappa Nu, the international honor society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

While on campus, McManus has developed close relationships with the faculty in the Department of Electrical Engineering and has conducted research with Greg Snider, professor and chair of the department, since his sophomore year. As the longest-serving undergraduate in the group, he has also taken on an advisory role where he assists other undergraduate researchers in their efforts.

McManus credits courses such as Integrated Circuit Fabrication, which he took with Alan Seabaugh, the Frank M. Freimann Professor of Electrical Engineering and director of Notre Dame Nanoscience and Technology, with inspiring him to focus on nanotechnology in his research and graduate studies. .

Richard McManus stands with his father and grandfather on campus.
McManus Jr. with his father, Richard Allen McManus Sr. '92, and his grandfather Richard Walter McManus '63.

“A class like IC Fab is not really offered at the undergraduate level at other universities, and the fact that the nanofabrication facility is open to undergrads, as well, is incredible,” he said. “The number of opportunities we have here to dive into research or just get to know our professors has been great. I have always felt comfortable just knocking on their doors to ask for their thoughts on something.”

The decision to come to Notre Dame was an easy one for McManus. He’s dreamed of it since he first visited campus as a young child with his father and grandfather, who are both graduates.

Both men—who went on from Notre Dame to become pilots in the US Navy—will be in the audience at Commencement, cheering him on with the rest of his family.

And when he walks across the stage, he’ll be wearing a class ring dated 1963. The ring, which originally belonged to his grandfather, Richard Walter McManus, was first passed down to his father, Richard Allen McManus Sr., upon his Notre Dame graduation in 1992 and then gifted to McManus Jr. last year, with all three men’s names inscribed on the inside.

“Carrying on that Notre Dame tradition and honoring my father and grandfather has meant the world to me,” he said. “While I am taking a different path after graduation, I cherish the Notre Dame experience we share and know that we truly all found our home under the Dome.”