From Student to Organizer: Q&A with Patrick Walsh

We sat down with Patrick Walsh of Argonne National Laboratory to hear about his first competition as an EcoCAR organizer.

Q: What is it like being an organizer rather than a student at competition?
A: It’s less stressful for sure. The bulk of the organizers’ legwork has been done in the weeks and months leading up to competition, and so now I’m not cramming and practicing for presentations, but rather executing the event. It’s great to be on “the other side” though, because I get to see all of the teams’ hard work pay off, and it’s good to see the students knock the presentations out of the park and walk away with a smile. It’s interesting to be able to see all of the different teams’ perspectives and approaches to meeting the competition deliverables. They are all unique and impressive.

Q. What is the most exciting thing about being an organizer at competition?
A: The most exciting thing for me is being able to see just how far the students have come in essentially nine months. They have progressed from having little knowledge about hybrid vehicles to being experts in their vehicle architectures, as well as their specific sub-team work such as controls development or mechanical packaging. Not only do they have significant knowledge now, they have the skills to communicate that knowledge.

Q: How many competitions is this for you?
A: This is my fourth competition, but my first as an organizer. I was team member for EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge Year One in Toronto in 2009, helping out with controls and mechanical work, and in Years Two and Three of EcoCAR (in Yuma/San Diego and Milford/Washington) I was co-team leader.

Q: How does the work of EcoCAR 2 students compare with that of EcoCAR 1?
A: I was proud of the work that my team did in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge, as a student, but I have to say I’m blown away by the work that EcoCAR 2 teams have accomplished. We have set the bar higher for them in almost all areas of the competition, and they have reached it and in some cases surpassed it. That is very impressive to me, because all of our students start at the same level of knowledge, and we continue to push the limits of what we ask from them.

Q: What is it like having competition in Los Angeles?
A: It’s been fantastic here, and LA is a very appropriate place to have this year’s final competition. Our competition focuses heavily on the environmental impact of vehicles, including tailpipe emissions. The LA basin is notorious for the poor air quality in the past due largely to automobiles, which spurred the founding of one of our sponsoring organizations, the California Air Resources Board. It’s only appropriate that this competition, which is training future advanced vehicle engineers, take place in the heart of that basin to drive home how important local air quality issues are.

Patrick Walsh serves as the Advanced Vehicle Testing and Controls Engineer at Argonne National Laboratory and a key organizer for EcoCAR 2. Patrick graduated with his master’s degree from Virginia Tech after serving as the team leader for the EcoCAR team (Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team of Virginia Tech) for two years. Prior to graduate school, Patrick worked as a powertrain analyst and calibrator at BMW in Greenville, South Carolina as a co-op during his undergraduate work at Virginia Tech. For EcoCAR 2, Patrick will serve as the event captain for the Emissions and Energy Consumption event, as well as support controls and simulation activity. When Patrick is not working for AVTC’s directly, he will be working in Argonne’s Advanced Powertrain Research Facility, testing and reporting on advanced technology vehicles.