In this week’s Mentor Monday post, we are featuring Kelly Pietras, a design system engineer at General Motors, who serves as a mentor for the EcoCAR students at North Carolina State University. Kelly has traveled to North Carolina three times within the past year to review the students’ progress and offer advice ranging from engineering tips to one-on-one career counseling.

While in Toronto for the Year One EcoCAR Finals, Kelly Pietras and NC State students conceptualized, modeled, and tested hybrid powertrains in the virtual world

“EcoCAR is a great opportunity for both GM and the students,” said Kelly. “Not only do the students get to build a physical car, but they also get to experience teamwork in a situation that models a real-life work environment. And for me, it’s always exciting to hear the students’ fresh, new ideas.”

As a new team to competitions, the North Carolina State students concentrated on planning the design and layout of their EREV vehicle, so that when it was finally time to install the system hardware, they didn’t waste any time. Kelly was especially proud that the students were able to get their car running in electric mode, and their efforts were recognized with the Most Improved Team award at the Year Two competition in Yuma and San Diego. Currently, the students are working on equipping their vehicle with a fully-integrated powertrain system, while optimizing driver-friendly design and feasibility.

At GM, Kelly has been working to improve the powertrain experience for customers for 10 years. As an ongoing project, Kelly engineers six-speed front wheel and six-speed rear wheel automatic transmissions, which can be found in cars like the Cadillac CTS and SRX and other full-size vehicles.

“GM is an exciting place to work,” said Kelly. “There’s always something new going on, from technological developments to advancements on existing designs.”

To sum up her involvement with EcoCAR, Kelly says, “I grew up in Detroit, so the auto industry has always been a part of my life. I’ve been inspired by cars from a very young age, and it’s amazing to see that same enthusiasm in such talented young adults.”