Earlier this month, organizers from Argonne National Laboratory, General Motors, and the U.S. Department of Energy came together to discuss the EcoCAR 3 program with the Year One Faculty Advisory Board (FAB).

The FAB consists of four EcoCAR faculty advisors who come from a mix of veteran and incoming teams involved in Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTC), including Patrick Currier, Embry-Riddle; Paul Puzinauskas, University of Alabama; Brian Fabien, University of Washington; and Doug Nelson, Virginia Tech.

The College of Engineering and Mineral Sciences at West Virginia University. Photo by West Virginia University

The College of Engineering and Mineral Sciences at West Virginia University. Photo by West Virginia University

Hosted at West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown, West Virginia, the FAB provided critical academic input on Year One of the competition series, before the organizers begin implementing the changes this academic year. The Fall FAB meeting covered a variety of topics, including the Non-Year Specific Rules and the Year One Event Rules, as well as the upcoming workshops and other major events scheduled this year. The FAB also briefly discussed new additions to the competition, including the project management and innovation swimlanes.

In addition, AVTC Program Director Kristen De La Rosa was able to meet with university administration, including the Dean of Engineering at WVU, to discuss the participation the university’s participation in AVTCs, which dated back to the first Methanol Marathon in 1988. The West Virginia University team was also able to sit down with organizers for some quality discussion time as well in the various swimlanes for EcoCAR 3.

“West Virginia University is very excited to be back in the EcoCAR competition.  AVTCs are the most comprehensive student design competitions in existence and prepares students well for a career in various aspects of the automotive industry, from engineering to project management to public relations,” said Andrew Nix, faculty advisor for WVU. “Having the organizers from Argonne, General Motors and Department of Energy here at WVU for the three-day faculty advisory board meeting provided our faculty and students a look into the development process of the competition and gave the students a great opportunity to meet the organizers.”

The FAB will meet again in January at the University of Alabama for the Winter FAB and the organizers would like to thank West Virginia University for hosting the Fall FAB!

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The time has now arrived for the EcoCAR 3 Kickoff Workshop! Over the next two days, more than 150 students and sponsors will be in Novi, Michigan for the first official event of the EcoCAR 3 series. Students will take part in specific software training from MathWorks and Siemens, as well as project management training from EarthPM. Teams will also participate in sessions covering topics like the Year One Rules, Vehicle Development Process, and an overview of the Chevrolet Camaro from Al Oppenheiser, General Motors Chief Engineer for the Chevrolet Camaro.

Students and sponsors during the EcoCAR 3 Plenary Session

Students and sponsors during the EcoCAR 3 Plenary Session

The EcoCAR 3 workshop will be held in conjunction with the Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo and The Battery Show. When the EcoCAR 3 students are not in training sessions for the competition, they have the ability to network with Expo exhibitors and sponsors. In addition, the EcoCAR 3 Chevrolet Camaro as well as Wayne State’s EcoCAR 2 vehicle will be on display at the Expo. If you are attending, stop by Booth E361 to talk to students and organizers about the program.

The EcoCAR 3 Booth at the Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo

The EcoCAR 3 Booth at the Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo

We are excited to be in Novi over the next two days for the EcoCAR 3 Workshop! Check back on social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily updates and photos from the workshop and Expo.

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Before becoming an engineering student at Ohio State University (OSU), Craig Pavlich had experience working on cars and motorcycles. After joining OSU’s Challenge X team in 2006, he shifted his focus from mechanical engineering to electronics and computer. Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) prepared him well for his career, and in many ways, the knowledge and experiences have carried over to his professional life.

Craig went on to graduate from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in both English literature and mechanical engineering. He later went on to earn a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Today, Craig is a researcher at Argonne National Laboratory Advanced Powertrain Research Facility. The research he does in this position is presented to government policy makers and is very influential upon future automotive policies. Craig says his involvement in AVTCs was a key part of landing his job at Argonne. “After completing my master’s degree and gaining industry experience, I used connections at Argonne that I had gained through my involvement in AVTCs to secure a position as a researcher.”

While the connections were important, AVTCs also provided knowledge and inspiration that he carries with him in his job today. “A lot of what I do in the industry now is informed by what I wish I could have done for my vehicle as a student,” he said. “In my career, I’ve been able to extend from my experience in the competition. I’ve been able to do more involved testing, simulation, code development and controls development.”

Craig says that one of the greatest advantages to being involved with AVTCs is that it encourages cross-functional development between different disciplines of engineering. This creates a broad knowledge base, which helps the participants advance as professionals.

“We expect our mechanical engineers to learn electrical engineering and our electrical engineers to learn controls and computer engineering because we want to deliver to the industry well-rounded and fully-versed engineers who, at the system level, understand what needs to happen,” he said.

Looking back at his time in AVTCs, Craig advises current and future participants to be open-minded and avoid self-imposed limits. “The biggest lesson I learned from the competition was that your expectations can actually limit you,” Craig said. “You can do far more than you ever believed was possible. The most important thing is to try no matter how doubtful you are about your ability to do it.”

Hear more about Craig’s AVTCs experience here:

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Today’s blog features Rich and Dave from EarthPM and their inside look into the project management session at the upcoming Kickoff Workshop.

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EarthPM is eagerly anticipating working with the new EcoCAR 3 program.  The main reason for our excitement is rooted in the idea that project management (PM) has been given increased recognition in this format, with the inclusion of a project manager as a distinct position on each team.  To us, this is validation of what most of us already knew – which is that EcoCAR is a project, with a definitive start and finish, well-defined objectives, and contributions from a wide variety of disciplines which must be coordinated well in order to produce results.

So we are psyched to be able to work with the core project managers from the 16 North American universities, making sure that:

  • The project managers really understand the role they took on.
  • Those PMs get the foundational skills and tools they need to make them more effective in that role.
  • The project teams know what to expect and how to best contribute to their EcoCAR 3 effort

EarthPM, which is made up of Dave Shirley, PMP and Rich Maltzman, PMP, has not been idle since the last EcoCAR workshop.  Since then, we’ve continued to hone our skills both in PM and in transferring PM knowledge, taking on teaching assignments at Boston University, Curry College, University of Massachusetts/Boston, and at companies such as Eink and BiogenIDEC.  We’ve also continued to be active in the intersection of sustainability and PM, presenting at APCON in Costa Rica, IPMA World Congress in the Netherlands, and working on a follow-up book to Green Project Management.

So you can’t blame us for being optimistic and looking forward very much to working with faculty advisors, sponsors, and of course, the students to get them amped up and ready to lead their EcoCAR 3 project teams.  See you in Novi!

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Since 1988, more than 16,500 students have taken part in Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions. These students help stimulate the development of advanced propulsion and alternative fuel technologies and provide the training ground for the next generation of automotive engineers. Learn more about where some of these recent alumni are in the automotive industry because of AVTCs!

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Love Lor, a Wayne State University and EcoCAR 2 alumna, currently works on hardware-in-the-loop plant controls and integration for General Motors (GM). At GM she enjoys working with tools both new and familiar to achieve short and long term goals. Her experience with EcoCAR 2 allowed her to develop an automotive technical background that employers look for when hiring recent engineering graduates.

WSU grad Love Lor

WSU grad Love Lor

“Thanks to EcoCAR 2, I was able to obtain a job with GM that both challenges me and allows me to improve my existing skills.  Also, I get to be a part of the hybrid team, which I especially enjoy because I believe that  it’s the future of automotive technology.”

Lor graduated from Wayne State University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, focusing on hybrid controls. Following her degree, she continued her studies at Wayne State by obtaining her graduated with a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering in May 2013.

Lor was the Wayne State controls group leader for two years. While on the team, she worked with supervisory controller coding and plant modeling. She first heard about EcoCAR 2 from her thesis advisor, Dr. Jerry Ku and Wayne State’s EcoCAR 2team leader, Idan Kovent.

Lor is one of many former Wayne State EcoCAR 2 team members hired directly into the automotive industry after graduation.

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Last April, EcoCAR 3 students from North America came together for the official Launch Workshop of competition. The workshop was held in conjunction with Freescale’s Technology Forum (FTF) in Dallas, Texas and gave students and advisors a crash-course in everything EcoCAR 3.

Now five months later, EcoCAR 3 is working with Freescale again to display at their Designing with Freescale Seminar Series. Taking place over the next two days, the EcoCAR 3 Chevrolet Camaro will be on display at the event, which is being held in Plymouth, Michigan.

Learn more about Freescale’s partnership with EcoCAR 3, including an inside look into the innovative center stack design Mississippi State University displayed during FTF 2014.

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The EcoCAR 2 competition proved to provide innovative designs for energy efficiency in vehicles, leading to a more sustainable planet.  Its benefits are widespread and important.  But beyond its contribution to sustainability in technology, the competition showed that it provided a sustainable lifestyle to those who participate.

Two members of Colorado State University (CSU) Vehicle Innovation Team (VIT) have gone on to work for General Motors (GM) as a result of their participation in EcoCAR 2 – Peter Riedo and Matthew Stout.  This video features how EcoCAR 2 propelled these two former team members to success.

Peter Riedo enrolled in Dr. Thomas Bradley’s Hybrid Powertrain Design class in his junior year at CSU.  “After learning about hybrid powertrains, I joined the team over the summer between Years One and Two,” said Riedo.

As part of the Vehicle Innovation Team, Riedo was a controls engineer, focusing primarily on vehicle integration and controller development.

“I was able to work with the fuel cells, high voltage bus, electric motor, sensors, and the stock vehicle.  There was always a new challenge,” said Riedo.

His favorite part of being involved in the competition itself was the challenge to create something new and innovative.  He explained, “It was so rewarding working on a project that had never been designed before.”

Riedo’s position in EcoCAR 2 qualified him to interview and get hired by GM as a vehicle electrification engineer.

“The two most valuable aspects of working on EcoCAR 2 were working on an innovative new project and learning to work with a larger team,” Riedo said.  “There was no user manual about how to build this car.  It was truly a feat of innovation.”  On the subject of working with a larger team, he said, “Working on a team of 25 engineers also helped me learn how to work with and support others.  Smaller group projects didn’t have the same challenges or rewards.”

In conclusion, he described that this competition wasn’t always a good time.  “EcoCAR 2 was probably one of the hardest, most frustrating, and draining things I have ever done.”  However, despite its challenges and stresses, EcoCAR 2 paid off for Riedo in a big way.  “Creating something that has never been done before, and getting it to work, made EcoCAR 2 worth every second.”

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At the Energy Department, a workforce well versed in STEM fields is critical to driving its mission forward. DOE is introducing #WomeninSTEM to boost the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM and energy fields. Check out the same blog post on the Energy Blog.

Meet Carter Wall. She’s the director of the performance solar division at a Boston-area electrical construction company and the first profile in our new #WomeninSTEM video series.

Carter developed an interest in science at an early age, yet struggled to find examples of women scientists and engineers beyond historical figures, like Marie Curie. A lack of relatable role models ultimately didn’t stop Carter from pursuing an undergraduate education and career rooted in STEM – shorthand for science, technology, engineering and mathematic fields. Now, she plays a key role at one of largest solar developers in the Northeast, while also serving as an ambassador for the Energy Department’s Women in Clean Energy Initiative.

Just like Carter, many women have difficultly finding STEM role models they can directly relate to, partly due to the underrepresentation of women in these fields. Among college grads, men outnumber women in nearly every science and engineering major, according to a report by the American Association of University Women. The disparity is equally as stark as women enter the workforce. According to the Department of Commerce, women make up less than a quarter of STEM professionals in the U.S.

At the Energy Department, a workforce well versed in STEM fields, like physics, chemical science and computing, is critical to driving our mission forward. That’s why we’re committed to supporting a diverse talent pool of STEM innovators ready to address the challenges and opportunities of our growing clean energy economy. Through scholarships, fellowships and targeted initiatives, we’re working every day to boost the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM and energy fields — including the launch of #WomeninSTEM. This new video series is designed to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals, while raising the profile of women who are leading transformative change across the energy sector, from addressing the growing threat of climate change to advancing clean energy technologies, like wind and solar.

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This post was written by University of Waterloo graduate, Michael Giannikouris, on his experience in Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions, including EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge.

In 2009, I started a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. My degree supervisors, Dr. Roydon Fraser and Dr. Michael Fowler, were also the faculty advisors for the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team. When I came in on the first day they didn’t have office space for me, so Dr. Fraser suggested that I “hang around” the garage where the team worked.

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Giannikouris (first row, second from right) with the University of Waterloo team during the Year Three competition during EcoCAR 1

The team was just starting the second year of EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge, which is the vehicle build year, so it was an exciting time to get involved. It took a few weeks to “learn the ropes” but I soon found myself spending every day (and night) in that garage and getting involved in anything I could get my hands on. From taking apart the car to modeling the battery pack to designing the cooling systems, I wanted to know how everything was done. Once I got a taste of the electrical and controls side of things, I was hooked. I spent the third year wiring electrical systems, writing powertrain control code, and working as the team captain.

After EcoCAR, I stayed in Waterloo and joined a local company called CrossChasm Technologies. The company had been formed years earlier by other AVTC graduates and seemed like a perfect fit. At CrossChasm, I work on various control system projects, including a series of remote-controlled robotic rovers that are a lot of fun. I’m also a developer for the company’s FleetCarma data logging hardware, which is used to monitor energy, emissions, and usage data for conventional, hybrid, and electric vehicles.

I don’t think I can overstate how valuable my AVTC experience has been. I found a passion for a field of engineering that had previously been unknown to me. I’ve been able to combine my mechanical engineering training with my interest in computer software and apply them in interesting and hugely rewarding applications.

Giannikouris (third from left) during the EcoCAR Winter Workshop in Daytona Beach

Giannikouris (third from left) during the EcoCAR Winter Workshop in Daytona Beach

I’ve benefited a lot from working with some really great people including EcoCAR team members, faculty advisors, AVTC organizers, and competition sponsors. The people involved in AVTCs are genuinely enthusiastic about what they do, and I count myself lucky to have been able to benefit from their knowledge and guidance.

EcoCAR has helped me learn to take on new challenges, to revel in the unknown, and to always find (sometimes creative) ways to get the job done. But like anything in life you only get out of it what you put in. Being heavily involved in EcoCAR was a lot of work (my wife had to join the team just to be able to spend time with me!), but it was 100% worth it. It’s really important to take advantage of the opportunities that AVTCs have to offer, because I don’t think that there are many other experiences that can compare.

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