A Q&A with UW’s Rich Wurden

The University of Washington’s Tyler Rose recently sat down with one of the team’s newly minted alumni, Rich Wurden. He was the Electrical team lead throughout Year One of the competition and left last year to work for A123 Systems.

Rose: How were you recruited out of EcoCAR and why did you choose to go to A123?

Wurden: I wanted to take a break from my Master’s Degree to determine what I want to focus on and spend time working in the automotive industry.

I love iterative design, electric vehicles and the combination of electrical and mechanical engineering in transportation. There are a lot of parallels that can be drawn between mechanical engineering and the high current powertrains in EcoCAR. Electric vehicle standards are really just being set, so I think it’s an awesome field to be involved in right now.

In EcoCAR I was promoted to electrical team lead and also functioned as the battery pack design lead through year one of the competition. At competition and the workshops, I had worked closely with a number of engineers at A123 and saw they really had a passion for designs.  Our ESS design was selected best at the year one competition, and that event spawned recruiting for me from A123.  In communicating with A123 engineers, I became very attracted to their company culture and knew that I would enjoy working there.

R: How did your EcoCAR experience help you prepare for your role at A123?

W: EcoCAR helped me because it provided real world experience where I had a chance to create practical, safe and effective designs and really get the whole picture of what goes into a plug-in hybrid vehicle. Everyone involved in EcoCAR knows it’s absolutely shocking how broad the competition is when you start to get into it. I was also able to get a great taste for working in a large team and learned a lot about how I should interact with both co-workers and fellow teammates. I made some mistakes, but I think it’s all part of the experience and you choose what to get out of it. Overall I wouldn’t trade my time at EcoCAR for anything.

R: Have you been able to contribute back to the UW EC2 program since becoming an alumnus?

W: Since graduating I have stayed in close contact with a couple of the EcoCAR team members. I have attempted to answer questions on schematics, explain what specific components in the A123 energy storage system do and how to service them safely. I haven’t contributed as much as I would like to.

R: Any tips to current team members or future alumni on how to maximize their EcoCAR 2 experience?

W: My advice to current team members and future alumni would be to focus on learning what you can because ultimately that’s what you get out of EcoCAR. Lots and lots of learning.