Mentor Monday: Challenge X Students Explain how AVTCs Help in the Real World

This week’s Mentor Monday post takes a look into the lives of three men that participated in Challenge X, the Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition that preceded EcoCAR. Ron Lewis (Mississippi State), Steve Scott (University of Michigan), and Kennabec Walp (Mississippi State) all took a moment to reflect on their Challenge X experiences and how the program helped get them to where they are today!

Ron Lewis found that the competition helped many students, including himself, decide on a specific direction for their future work. “Challenge X helped set my career path and allowed me to gain much needed experience with a large long term project. The experience gave me a leg up when it came time to search for a position. I was already headed down the path of automotive engineering, and the Challenge X program definitely reassured my choice for a career,” said Lewis, now an applications engineer for Woodward.

Steve Scott recalls how companies with products and tools used in the competitions also often realized the benefits of university sponsorships in the form of talent – the students often become recruits. “Corporate contacts made through Challenge X were directly responsible for my two most recent positions within the field of alternative powertrain development. In addition to offering unique hands-on experience, student competitions such as Challenge X and EcoCAR attract self-motivated students truly interested in the targeted technologies. These are just a few of the reasons progressive companies participate in and recruit heavily from student engineering competitions,” said Scott, now a senior systems engineer for Parker Hannifin Corporation and former applications engineer for Woodward.

Many students who participate in programs like Challenge X and EcoCAR learn valuable skills that are a priceless asset for future employment opportunities. “To be successful with my Challenge X projects, I needed to develop control systems quickly – MotoHawk enabled me to do just that. I was so excited by the innovative technology that it led to my career as a MotoHawk developer,” said Kennabec Walp, who is now an embedded software engineer for Woodward and the Woodward technical representative for EcoCAR.

Kennabec joined the MSU Challenge X team as a graduate student and says he picked up invaluable skills he wouldn’t have been exposed to in normal classroom experiences. “Challenge X gave me extensive hands-on experience with both existing technology as well as the leading edge of new technology such as hybrid vehicle designs and model based development,” he said.

Photo circa 2007