Five Things You Learn in 20 Hours of Travel

Written By: Emma Hebert

A plane, a sleepover at Kimberly DeClark’s, and a six-hour drive with a bunch of engineers can teach you a lot about flexibility, cooperation, and of course having a sense of humor. After a fantastic few days in Austin, TX, the Pennsylvania State University Advanced Vehicle Team said our goodbyes, gathered our bags, enjoyed a few hours at Zilker Park with Georgia Tech, and headed to the airport for a quick flight home… or so we thought.

  1. Flexibility is crucial

This is both literally and figuratively- Two of our engineers, Connor Disco and Chase Schell, are both over 6′. For them, 20 hours of travel means requesting aisle seats for our flights and taking the seats with the most legroom in the cars. For the rest of us, most of our flexibility came in the form of dealing with a delayed flight and an impending six hour drive from Detroit to State College- all with classes to arrive on time for Monday morning, and with a happy smile and positive attitude.PSU 1

  1. Convincing airport security that carrying a hybrid supervisory controller, wiring harness, and DS1006 board are totally normal things to travel with isn’t an easy task.

We were never given a hard time about these items, but we still got a few funny looks from security when they opened our bags to inspect what exactly we were carrying. After having these items pre-checked, hardware manuals included, we still had to spend 20 minutes trying to explain who we were, what we were doing, and why we would be carrying such items on a flight. Despite our preemptive efforts, we had a few notices of checked bags from the Transportation Security Administration.psu2

  1. Kimberly DeClark is a wonderful hostess with an adorable dog.

Frustrated and exhausted with our predicament, Kimberly was kind enough to offer her home to us for the night instead of driving straight from Detroit to State College. We arrived at her home to find her dog, Daisy, excited and ready to play with her several squeaky toys with us- even after a long day, we were more than happy to be in a warm home with a puppy, plenty of air mattresses, and a delicious cinnamon bread for when we woke up. A big thank you again to the DeClark family for hosting us during our tight predicament!psu4

  1. A solid playlist is essential for road trips… and so are conspiracy theories

          We discovered several things about one another’s taste in music during our traveling time. Our team lead hates country music whereas our project manager loves it; our systems safety manager and mechanical lead enjoy duets with Adele, while our innovations manager enjoys silence. This led to several lively discussions about whose musical taste was most logical, as well as who got to dominate the aux chord for the next hour to torture the rest of the car. These discussions also spiraled into various conspiracy theories and beliefs from the various team members. Our ADAS lead, Chase, evidently believes in lizard-human hybrids, and our innovations lead needed his silence to foster other theories about the world, answering important questions such as: “Where is the Illuminati’s headquarters, really?” and “If Chase is right, who on our team could actually be a lizard-human hybrid?”psu3

  1. Having a team full of hilarious guys makes 20 hours of travel a great memory

Although this wasn’t the ideal situation, laughing about our terrible luck and making the best of it brought our team closer together. These types of memories, even though they’re unplanned, make the countless hours of hard work we put in throughout the year totally worth it. It gave us a greater appreciation for the talented and diverse personalities that create the Penn State Advanced Vehicle Team, and make it an organization that’s so rewarding to be a part of- even if we realize it while crammed into a car at 5 a.m.