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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With less than 30 days until the Kickoff Workshop, EcoCAR 3 teams are eager to begin the next four-year competition series! Held September 16-18, 2014 in Novi, Michigan, EcoCAR 3 will team up with the Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo and The Battery Show to host the Kickoff Workshop.

Read more about the Kickoff Workshop and the EcoCAR 3 program on page 10 of the Battery Show Preview Magazine!

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Ohio State University student Sarah Jadwin joins Schools.com for this week’s episode of the Prep Rally podcast. Jadwin, the communications manager for Ohio State’s EcoCAR 2 team, discusses the importance of green technology and how students can develop those “soft skills” that are oh-so-important for boosting their career potential.

Listen in to the podcast!

Sarah Jadwin_SchoolsCom

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The EcoCAR 3 Kickoff Workshop will be held in conjunction with the Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan, from September 16-18, 2014. The expo will also be co-located with The Battery Show Conference and both of these events will be great backdrops for our workshop!

During the Kickoff Workshop, EcoCAR 3 teams will get an overview of the competition, including the vehicle development process, multi-disciplinary swimlanes, event rules, and non-year specific rules. Teams will also take part in sponsor training, including MathWorks MATLAB and Simulink, Siemens NX, and project management training, as well as attend a Sponsor Social Network and Recruiting Event in Novi.

Registration for the Kickoff Workshop is now live so talk with your faculty advisor or project manager for more information!

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Tom Goddette graduated from Mississippi State University (MSU) in 2013 after being involved with Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) for five years, where he was able to work on the EcoCAR 1 and EcoCAR 2 series. MSU’s team caught back up with him after his move to Michigan to begin his career at AVL Powertrain Engineering. He offered words of advice and said what he sees in the future for AVTCs.

Tom interviews former Secretary of Energy Chu during the satellite media tour in EcoCAR 2

Tom interviews former Secretary of Energy Chu during the satellite media tour in EcoCAR 2

Q: What was your position on the Mississippi State team?

A: I didn’t really have a traditional position on the team. I was an undergrad/graduate student in mechanical engineering so I helped physically build the car but I also helped design the battery and work on the electrical systems. At the same time I was one of the engineers that really enjoyed participating in outreach events, so I really tried to go to as many events as I could, helping to promote the team and EcoCAR.

Q: What was your favorite experience while on the MSU EcoCAR 2 Team?

A: It is hard to pick one favorite experience. Competition each year is always a great time. Not only do you get to compete with a car that you have been working on for a least a year (sometimes longer), you also get to see all the other teams hard work.

Q: What did you learn by being a part of the MSU EcoCAR 2 Team?

A: EcoCAR is a major project, especially since it is a completely student run project. One of the best things that I took away from EcoCAR was the need for planning and preparing before doing anything. There is so much that has to be completed at each stage of EcoCAR and everyone on the team, engineering and non-engineering majors both, have to come together and work if the team is going to do well.

Q: What is your role at AVL?

A: I am currently a project engineer in the design group.  I work in multiple CAD packages designing engine components and systems for AVL clients.

Q: How did EcoCAR 2 help prepare you for your role at AVL?

A: EcoCAR was a great learning experience that directly correlates to the work that I do now. In EcoCAR we design a hybrid vehicle powertrain from the ground up. We had to worry about the same things that I have to worry about now; space, weight, safety, maintenance, and costs all come into play and have to be considered.

Q: What advice do you have for new EcoCAR team members?

A: Don’t waste any time! Just because you are new on the team doesn’t mean that you can’t get things done. There is ALWAYS something that you can be helping with and it doesn’t always require intimate knowledge of your teams EcoCAR or cars in general.

Q: What do you see in the future for AVTCs?

A: I really hope to see more advanced vehicle architecture coming out of the next few competitions. The software and hardware that is donated by the sponsors is definitely capable of simulating some advanced stuff and I would really love to see a school come up with something that blows everyone away.

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University of Washington’s (UW) Communications Manager Kate Kitto joined the UW EcoCAR 2 team in Fall 2013 after hearing about the competition from a friend. Since joining, she has enjoyed learning a great deal about environmental car design and about the challenging but rewarding art of managing many forms of reporting and public relations.

More importantly, she is looking forward to continuing her role with the UW EcoCAR 3 team. Learn more about Kate by watching the video below!

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Emily Keats is the Communication Manager for the Vehicle Innovation Team (VIT) at Colorado State University, where she works to publicize the EcoCAR 2 program at the campus, local, and state level.

Emily was born and raised in Stevens Point, WI and moved to Colorado in 2009 to pursue a master’s degree in Public Communication and Technology. She has since earned this degree and is now working on her Ph.D. in the same discipline.

She joined the EcoCAR 2 project in August 2012 – and knew absolutely nothing about advanced vehicle technology (which has since changed drastically)! Being involved with this outstanding program has helped her to gain hands-on experience in public relations, marketing and communicating technical content.

Emily loves being involved in this project and looks forward to starting up the EcoCAR 3 communications team next fall!

Learn more about Emily’s experience with EcoCAR 2 by watching the video below.

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Virginia Tech’s business manager was very busy in Year Three of EcoCAR 2. Lucas Shoults took over the business management team after spending Year Two as a mechanical subteam member. As a first year mechanical engineering graduate student, his engineering background has given him excellent perspective into what sponsors and team members must do to maximize success. Lucas also plans on coming back during EcoCAR 3 as Virginia Tech’s engineering manager!

Let him tell you all about his role as the business manager:

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Meet University of Washington’s Year Three business manager, Alexander Ong! Now a senior at the University of Washington’s (UW) Foster School of Business, Ong is one of the newest members of the UW EcoCAR team, but that hasn’t stopped him from diving headfirst into his newly acquired role.

After being introduced to EcoCAR by a friend on the team, Ong has enjoyed the incredible experience that the competition has afforded him. Ong especially appreciates the real world, multidisciplinary opportunities that EcoCAR provides, which will prepare him for a career in the business world.

Learn more about Alexander by watching the following video! 

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Allison Kotewicz joined the Colorado State University EcoCAR 2 team as the Energy Storage Systems project manager during her senior year as a mechanical engineering student.

“The EcoCAR 2 project was a true capstone to my academic career, providing me with challenges in project management, advanced technologies, and community relations,” she said.

Involvement in EcoCAR 2 helped Kotewicz to obtain a position with Rockwell Automation as an account manager in their Sales Engineering Training Program. This role requires her to interface with a wide variety of manufacturing companies, update them about the company’s latest automation technologies, manage potential sales opportunities and build relationships with current and prospective clientele. Since the start of her job, she was promoted to Channel Business Development at Rockwell.

Kotewicz proudly displays the team’s “Regenerate!” kit used to teach youth about the process and benefits of regenerative braking at the Year 2 Final Competition in San Diego, CA.

Kotewicz proudly displays the team’s “Regenerate!” kit used to teach youth about the process and benefits of regenerative braking at the Year 2 Final Competition in San Diego, CA.

“I think that the complexities of building our vehicle and interfacing all the different systems in Year Two of EcoCAR is what really has translated into my core career skills. So much communication had to happen to make our car a reality, and that’s the same story for everything I’m seeing in my day-to-day at Rockwell Automation.”

Kotewicz’s strong interpersonal skills and willingness to collaborate with team members was a major help during Year Two. She took time from her busy schedule to support the communications team by attending community outreach events, which she credits as one of the main reasons she found a career in sales engineering.

“With all of the outreach events I was participating in for EcoCAR, I felt that sales engineering would be a comfortable transition—and it has been great! I am really enjoying my job and thankful that I got to develop and improve so many valuable skills as a project manager for EcoCAR 2.”

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