After being laid off from my eight-year job as a lab technician, I decided it was time to return to school at San Diego State University and finish my Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Initially, I figured I would get through school, get a job somewhere in San Diego and get back to evening surfing sessions as soon as possible. Then my life changed.
During my fourth year, I caught word of a hybrid vehicle engineering project at SDSU that was just getting started called Challenge X. As a diehard gear-head and car enthusiast, I went to check it out and, almost immediately, I was hooked. As soon as I started working on SDSU’s high-performance hybrid vehicle, I knew I had found my niche. I was always interested in being part of solving the nation’s energy issues, and if I could do this while building fast cars, even better! SDSU, however, was new to these types of competitions and, as a result, we faced many tough challenges.
I graduated from SDSU during the first year of Challenge X with my Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, but I soon realized that if I wanted to make a career in this area, I had a lot more to learn! So, I signed up for graduate school and continued working on Challenge X for three and a half of the four years of Challenge X. Staying on as SDSU’s hybrid team lead not only allowed me to gain valuable automotive eco-engineering experience, but also gave me the opportunity to see what it really takes to turn innovative dreams into reality, in the form of a functional driving vehicle.
So, after graduation, when it was time to find a job, my thoughts turned to giving back to the program that helped me so much in school. In March 2008, I joined the team at Argonne National Laboratory as a Vehicle Systems Engineer for the advanced vehicle technology competitions, where I helped to organize the final year of Challenge X and now organize EcoCAR, the latest competition series. It is very rewarding knowing that my hard work planning these competitions is helping new generations tackle our transportation and energy-related challenges!
And, while my new wife and I have relocated from San Diego to Plainfield, Illinois, I am content knowing that, once again, I will watch the sun set from my surfboard, but this time from Lake Michigan
Contributed by Frank Falcone, Vehicle Systems Engineer, Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions at Argonne National Laboratory.