Going Green and Giving Back: Jesse Alley

This is the story of Jesse Alley and his transition from Virginia Tech volunteer to Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) Vehicle Systems Engineer at Argonne National Laboratory.

Coming out of high school, I decided that there were only three things you could be in life: doctor, lawyer or engineer. I didn’t like rules or biology, so by process of elimination that meant I had to be an engineer. If I was going to be an engineer, I should find a good engineering school. That is what led me into the engineering program at Virginia Tech.

While watching a football game near the end of my sophomore year at Virginia Tech, my roommate’s cousin, who was the team leader for the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) during ChallengeX, opened his laptop and showed me the expansive control code employed on the current Virginia Tech vehicle. It was like falling down the rabbit hole – I was fascinated. I started volunteering for HEVT my junior year and it didn’t take long before I was hooked.

I signed up for HEVT as my senior capstone design project during the second year of EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge and immediately immersed myself in the project. I quickly found that the project was far too big for one person to handle. I learned the hard way how to lead a team without doing all the work myself and how to depend on my teammates.

During my senior year, I made the decision to continue my education at Virginia Tech and complete my Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. I enjoyed my work with HEVT, so I decided to spend the next two years working with the team as a graduate student. During Year Three of EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge, I served as a graduate advisor to the seniors on the mechanical subteam, assisting with tasks including waivers, ESS development and preparing the vehicle to pass inspection at competition. The team overcame quite a bit of adversity in that year to place first overall, which remains one of my favorite moments from my time as AVTC participant.

Alley, Top Middle, at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds with HEVT

In the summer of 2011, I was selected as the team leader for HEVT for Year One of EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future. Around that time, Kristen De La Rosa posted a job opening for a Vehicle Systems Engineer position. When I read the job description, it sounded more like my biography from the past three years than a new job. I realized that this job was the perfect fit for me!

Now as the AVTC Vehicle Systems Engineer, I get to help educate the next generation of automotive engineers, which is near and dear to my heart. I’m excited to see what becomes of this position and look forward to working with all of the EcoCAR 2 teams!