“Roadkill” (Tom Smyth) and “General John” (John Firment) are a legendary volunteering twosome in the world of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTC). Respected and loved by all, the duo has been working together since 1991.
A key component for any team in competition is teamwork, and Tom and John exemplify this characteristic. Tom said, “We can read each others minds. When I was an event captain, he was my right arm and when he was an event captain, I was his right arm. We think alike.”
“Roadkill” and “General John” are always a click away through their trusty CB radios. Whether it is setting up awards behind the stages or filling up coolers with water in the Yuma desert, these two will get the job done.
Surprisingly, the duo hasn’t always volunteered behind the scenes. General Motors and Natural Resources Canada were sponsors in 1991 and Tom and John were assigned to work on the Natural Gas Vehicle Challenge.
Today, Tom is retired. Prior to retirement he worked for Natural Resources Canada, starting out in a chemical plant as a maintenance engineer. He finished out his career working with heavy-duty trucks – convincing them to use alternative fuels like natural gas, biodiesel and different tires for fuel economy.
John, a non-degree engineer, is currently a retired General Motors employee after 40 years of service. “I worked my way up through the ranks,” he said. He has done everything from working in the clerk department to vehicle development to disassembling and analyzing vehicles. “It was a fun career!”
Tom and John said that their favorite moments during the competitions are seeing the students lend a helping hand to one another during times of need. “They’re all working together for a common goal. You get some of the best engineers,” said John. “Your practical experience in the real world makes you a much, much better engineer.”
The two agree that the program has drastically changed since their involvement began over two decades ago. John said that he has seen continuous improvement throughout the years. “The tech has evolved over a period of time and it’s more professional now. It is well defined, well thought out and you have to meet special criteria to pass inspection,” he said.
Nowadays, both Tom and John are retired, but they continuously return to the competitions year after year as loyal volunteers. Tom said his involvement in the competitions changed his life.
“Roadkill” and “General John” engage in a variety of activities outside of volunteering at EcoCAR. In addition to being an engineering techie, Tom is also a theater techie, assuming the roles of projection stage manager and assistant stage manager. John writes handicap tickets for his local police department and also helps solve passenger issues at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
The entire AVTC team is proud and grateful for the wonderful friendship of Tom and John. Thank you for all your years of service, knowledge, dedication, passion and excitement for training the future generations!
Check out the video below of Tom and John working as the dynamic duo and a look back at their involvement in AVTCs over the last two decades.