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The Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) program was started by Argonne National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy in 1987 and has included more than nine unique series over the last 22 years. Most recent AVTC series include EcoCAR, Challenge X and FutureTruck. Our latest “Where Are They Now” post features Shawn Midlam-Mohler, an AVTC alum who has contributed as a team member, team leader, and now faculty advisor for each of these recent AVTC series spanning the past 12 years.

Shawn started his M.S. at The Ohio State University in 1999 where he quickly got involved as a team member on the Ohio State FutureTruck team working on the Chevrolet Suburban, sponsored by GM. As a team member, Shawn worked on the emissions control system of the vehicle.  Shawn quickly discovered the significance of these competitions and signed up to be team leader for the Ford FutureTruck. During his time as a student, Shawn always felt that the time spent working on FutureTruck was one of the most valuable parts of his education.  Therefore, fostering this type of learning with new students was a natural fit for Shawn.

From 2004-2005, Shawn was focused mostly on completing his PhD, but still managed to support the Challenge X team at OSU. After completing his PhD in 2005, Shawn began working as a Research Engineer at The Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research where he currently is employed today. This position allows Shawn to perform research for some of the best in the automotive industry. He has had the opportunity to work with General Motors, Chrysler, Tenneco, Cummins, and many others through SMART @CAR and the CAR Industrial Consortium. Shawn’s research includes emissions control, powertrain modeling and applied engine control.

Currently, Shawn serves as the Co-Faculty Advisor for The Ohio State EcoCAR team. His experience in AVTCs allows Shawn to keep the OSU EcoCAR team motivated and on track.

Shawn works with Ohio State EcoCAR students on testing their vehicle

Shawn jokes, “During my time as a student in the advanced vehicle competitions, it would be an understatement to say that we are more successful now than we were in the past. Our earlier trials and tribulations make the present look a lot rosier when something goes wrong.  As serious as a current setback seems, I can usually think of something worse that we’ve already experienced and learned from.”

Shawn believes AVTCs give students opportunities to engage in the applied side of engineering.  Shawn stated, “Application of engineering principles is what industry thrives on and participation in motorsports projects like EcoCAR are great ways for students to get that experience.”

In addition to his role as the EcoCAR faculty advisor, Shawn is gradually becoming more involved in teaching and supporting the research areas within The Ohio State University‘s mission.  Shawn is working with interdisciplinary capstone senior design and is striving to integrate motorsports’ projects into Ohio State’s curriculum. He is taking on more responsibilities with the entire spectrum of automotive student project teams at Ohio State.  The OSU EcoCAR team is fortunate to have such strong leadership from Shawn and looks forward to his continued support of advanced vehicle technology competitions for years to come!

Are you an AVTC alum? Share your “Where Are They Now” story with us at ecocar@greenough.com.

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ClimateWire’s Darius Dixon contributed an article to The New York Times last week entitled, “Preparing Students to Roll Off the Campus and Into Big Automotive Jobs.” The piece features EcoCAR and explores the evolution of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs), the students competing in them and their relationship with the auto industry. Not only does Dixon talk at great length about the competition, he also includes highlights from Virginia Tech and Mississippi State University in his narrative!

Dixon points out that initially, vehicle competitions aimed to advance technology and promote alternative fuels. Twenty-three years and 16,000 students later, the competitions have other emphases. EcoCAR’s own Kristen De La Rosa from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) is quoted in the article saying that there has been a shift in the emphasis of the program from designing and developing future vehicles (pre-hybrid market) to an emphasis on providing the most real-world educational experience for the future leaders of the auto industry.

Teaching this type of systems-level thinking and skills, while emphasizing hands-on learning and real-world applications, presents another major set of AVTC benefits – opportunities for students to make an almost seamless transition into careers in the auto industry and related fields. Close relationships with General Motors (GM), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), ANL and other industry heavy-hitters have an influence on the EcoCAR experience – an admittedly good one according to Virginia Tech’s EcoCAR co-team leader, Lynn Gantt, who is quoted as saying, “Who wouldn’t want their industry involved in their education? Just about everyone among the team and sub-team leaders has a job offer from industry.”

How has EcoCAR or other AVTCs prepared you for the real world? Please share your comments, we’d love to hear from you!

For a deeper view into how EcoCAR students have gone on to work for companies like GM, DOE and ANL, check out: Life After EcoCAR: Jim Motavalli Examines Recruiting and Future Careers for Students, an Inside the Green Garage post featuring insights from auto journalist and EcoCAR enthusiast, Jim Motavalli.

Where Are They Now this week highlights Mel Corrigan (previously Mel Fox), a Penn State and Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) alum who has spent her impressive academic career focused on Fuel Science research which ultimately led to her current position working on one of the most exciting innovations in vehicle technology.

Mel Corrigan began her undergraduate studies in chemical engineering at Penn State-Altoona.  Throughout her time at Altoona, she participated in the Society for Automotive Engineering Mini Baja competition.  During her junior year, she moved to the Penn State-University Park campus, where she became involved in undergraduate research studies focusing on diesel exhaust aftertreatment.

While studying at Penn State, Mel interned at Toyota Motor Mfg. in Georgetown, Kentucky in their Facilities Controls Engineering department where she compiled weekly utility consumption reports for the nine plants at the facility.  At that time, Mel also took part in the Energy Team, examining methods of improving energy consumption for vehicle manufacturing processes.

In 2002, Mel obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering at Wayne State University where she worked in an engine lab studying diesel combustion, She also participated in a National Science Foundation (NSF) project to create safety-related exercises for chemical engineering textbooks.

Mel entered graduate school at Penn State in 2003, starting with a Master’s of Science in Fuel Science.  Her research focused on performing three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics of combustion in a coal-fired boiler.

After completing her Master’s degree, Mel decided to continue her studies and obtain her Ph. D. in Fuel Science.  She shifted gears in her research, moving from modeling to experiments and then began studying the effects of intake-induced turbulence on the combustion characteristics of hydrogen assisted natural gas combustion in a spark-ignition engine.

Mel (Fox) Corrigan

Mel became involved with the Penn State Advanced Vehicle Technologies team during Challenge X. During her graduate studies, Mel received a two-year fellowship that required her to do weekly science outreach in K-12 classrooms.  This program, GREATT (Graduate Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Technologies), soon lead her to become the controls team leader for Penn State team in Year Two and the overall team leader during Year Three.

After completing a twelve-week internship in the Powertrain Systems Research group at General Motors during which she lead a project sampling and characterizing particulate matter from diesel combustion, Mel landed her first job with GM.

Mel now works as a Battery System Integration Engineer for the Chevy Volt.  She continues to support advanced vehicle technology competitions and acts as a judge for EcoCAR at workshops and competitions.  EcoCAR is not only thrilled to utilize Mel’s professional expertise, but also grateful to have her perspective as a former competitor as EcoCAR ushers in Year Three.

This week’s Where Are They Now post features Christopher Haliburton, a 2008 graduate of the University of Waterloo, Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) participant (and now supporter) and current GM validation engineer for the Chevy Volt.

While attending the University of Waterloo, Chris Haliburton participated in Challenge X, the advanced vehicle technology competition (AVTC) program preceding EcoCAR. As part of the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT), he was able to work on mechanical integration design, systems modeling and rapid vehicle prototyping using the Powertrain Systems Analysis Toolkit developed by Argonne National Laboratory. In the final year of Challenge X, Chris became co-team leader and controls lead, helping to organize and lead a team of more than 20 students to successfully convert the Chevy Equinox into a dedicated fuel cell vehicle.

During his Challenge X experience, Chris was able to learn about General Motors’ Vehicle Design Process, which helped him obtain a job with GM upon graduation. Chris now works with GM’s Hybrid Controls and Integration department at the Milford Proving Grounds in Michigan.

Currently, Chris is a validation engineer for the Chevy Volt, where he maintains a fleet of mule vehicles from a software/hardware perspective.  He is also responsible for vehicle integration by updating software and troubleshooting issues daily as well as during initial vehicle builds.   Chris still likes to help out with EcoCAR, often participating as a judge during competition finals.

Chris has demonstrated that with a lot of hard work in the AVTC program while in school, it’s possible to land a pretty sweet job working on the next advanced vehicle technology coming into production.

This week’s “Where Are They Now” post features Stephen Gurski, a safety engineer in the Powertrain Division at General Motors (GM). At GM, Stephen is working on the launch of the Chevrolet Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle. In addition to his full-time job, Stephen is serving as the GM Powertrain Lead for Year Three of the current Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) series, EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge.

Stephen received a tribute for his years of AVTC service

Accepting the award

Stephen’s interest in engineering started in 1997 when his roommate invited him to attend a student club meeting. The club was the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team of Virginia Tech and their task was to convert the 1997 Chevrolet Lumina into a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle for the FutureCar Challenge. Stephen enjoyed working on cars and agreed to help the team obtain a set of axles for the vehicle, a small but important task. Little did he know that this decision would save his academic hardships and redefine his professional career.

For the next five years, Stephen dedicated his time to building advanced vehicles for the Virginia Tech team. Eventually, Stephen was selected as team lead during his last two years with the team. During those five years at Virginia Tech, Stephen finished his bachelor’s degree and continued on to complete a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

After graduate school, Stephen landed a job as a technical coordinator and safety engineer for the AVTC program at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. Stephen served as both a member and lead technical coordinator for the Argonne team for the finale of FutureTruck and majority of the Challenge X program. In 2007, he transitioned jobs internally at Argonne, becoming a vehicle dynamometer test cell and emissions engineer, which allowed him to evaluate the state of advanced vehicle technology in passenger and medium duty vehicles. Furthermore, Stephen contributed in researching the new EPA window sticker fuel economy labeling standards needed for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Stephen concluded his employment at Argonne in the summer of 2008, where he transitioned into his current position at GM.

“Had I not chosen to participate in AVTCs as a student, I would not have finished either of my engineering degrees,” he said. “As a result, I’ve helped hundreds of students become world class automotive engineers, and now I’m redefining the future of personal transportation.”

Advanced Vehicle Technology Competiton

Advanced Vehicle Technology Competiton

This year is the 20th year of the Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) program at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). The research and development laboratory outside of Chicago has managed more than 45 student vehicle competitions for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) since the program began with the Methanol Marathon in 1989. To date, more than 15,000 students from 85 different colleges and universities have participated.
While some of the technical goals and execution have changed over the years, the AVTCs are bound by a common theme: to accelerate the development and demonstration of technologies of interest to DOE and the automotive industry, help prepare the market to accept advanced vehicle technologies and to seed the automotive industry with a new generation of engineering graduates with hands-on, real-world experience that will better prepare them for the energy and transportation-related challenges of the 21st century.
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