From Space to Cars: 5 Student Experiences from Embry Riddle’s EcoCAR Team

By Sean Carter

I started out as an Aerospace Engineering undergrad at the University of Michigan and after my 2008 graduation I was looking for any job opportunity with the space program. I found that the space program was declining in job opportunities, and I failed to find any employment, so I began my Masters in Mechanical Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  My first day back in school, I noticed a project called EcoCAR on campus and decided to check it out.

Sean at Year Three Finals

I had no idea what I was getting into, especially since I was new to EcoCAR and the first year of the competition had already passed. There were a lot of late nights catching up on information, especially as I got involved with the control system.  Throughout the EcoCAR project, I learned a lot about automotive technology and control system theories. Eventually, I became the Team Lead of the EcoEagles at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  From the late night laughs to the testing sessions, the EcoCAR project has given me lasting friendships, connections to the automotive industry, and memorable experiences that can never be replaced.  I am walking away from this project employed by General Motors and knowing that I helped leave behind something that could be improved upon by future students at my Alma Mater.


By Brandon Smith

I became involved with EcoCar through a friend that had just been recruited to the EcoCar IDEA team. The IDEA team had just finished the migration from senior design project to faculty-sponsored club, and needed engineering students after losing the senior design manpower. My friend and roommate at the time, Michael, was able to convince me to come to a group meeting. Two years later, I am still here.

Sean and Brandon at work on their vehicle

In the beginning I had nothing to do with the vehicle, I was a software guy and we had our own lab for IDEA. Starting 6 months before Year Three Finals, the faculty advisor pushed to have IDEA meetings in the EcoCar garage to improve team cohesion. The initiative worked, and the garage quickly became my new home (sometimes literally). My most hectic, and rewarding, experiences have been during the weeks leading up to a competition, event, or deliverable. Our team works fantastically on stress, and I love being busy. These times usually stimulate massive increases in vehicle functionality—nothing is more rewarding then implementing something and actually seeing it work on the vehicle. The most extreme example of this progress is our mode changes: we went from fully manual shifts, to state machine coding, to SIL testing, to successful mode shifts in just four days. Progress like that justifies the 3am nights and 16 hour days!

Prior to Finals, we established communication and protocols between the IDEA carputer and the SCU running our controls code. It is incredible to see a system that you designed (IDEA) and wrote finally being incorporated—and actually making an impact—in the role it was designed for!


By Collete A. Davis

My personal experience so far… where do I start? Well, I was brought onto the team officially pretty late in the game because of my really busy schedule this past semester. I was taking 19 credit hours of classes and trying to manage my racing career at the same time.

My position on the team is to help with the management of EcoCAR PR, coordinate promotional events, and help brand the EcoEagles in all forms of Media outlets and appearances. I have experience in this field from managing all of the PR and Media relations for my own racing career for years and at I’m currently working along side Ryan Antisdel and Cassie Cameron. Along with being a part of the outreach group, my job is to also help solidify a new partnership to enhance promotional benefits between EcoCAR and my racing career. I am currently a student ambassador and racecar driver for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and believe by teaming up with EcoCAR we can not only promote an amazing project but also effectively spread the word to another target fan base about the EcoCAR competition, activities, and technologies.

The EcoEagles at Year Three Finals


By Michelle Rodio

My time with the ERAU EcoCAR team began this past year as I started my Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. My undergraduate background was in aerospace and although I was nervous to begin a graduate degree in another field of engineering, I knew that it was the best choice for my future.

I took a Clean Energy Systems course this last fall and fell in love with the many applications for alternative energy around the world. I quickly began trying to get funding from the university to create a biodiesel fuel.  Before I knew it, I was in the process of making the fuel and became the lead engineer for biofuel production and testing at ERAU.  The team welcomed me with open arms and truly made me feel like a valuable member of the team.  I am very grateful for everything that I have taken away from this year of working with the EcoCAR competition and only wish I could have become involved earlier.  I look forward to being involved in EcoCAR2!


By Ryan Antisdel

I was a latecomer to the EcoCAR program, starting in mid-January of Year 3. I had no idea that ERAU was participating in EcoCAR, not to mention that one of my fellow MBA classmates was the Outreach Coordinator. The learning process has not been easy with the loss of tacit knowledge transfer from my predecessor, but it has been a great experience overall.

I have had the opportunity to meet an entirely new group of students and professors who are all brilliant, along with the public and political figures at outreach events. I recently was selected to interview with BMW Manufacturing and they were very interested and impressed with my EcoCAR experiences. I personally believe this was what really helped me beat the competition to become an intern with their HR department for recruiting. As an avid automotive enthusiast I have always looked forward to the EcoCAR events that I have been able to participate in, whether with a small group of students or testing at the Daytona International Speedway. In the end I hope that I continue to help with the EcoCAR program into the future even if I am no longer directly working with ERAU.