Where Are They Now: West Virginia’s Jeff Rinker

Jeff Rinker might not have been a direct member of an Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team, but he did play a big role in support of the Future Truck and Challenge X competitions.

Working towards a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at West Virginia University, Jeff provided electrical help to the university’s FutureTruck team. Soon after college, he started working at MotoTron, a former sponsor for AVTCs, where he was involved in the 2006 and 2008 Challenge X competitions.
“MotoTron offered embedded control rapid prototyping hardware – rugged production-ready hardware,” he said. “The teams were able to use production hardware that would package well on an on-road vehicle without ancillary support systems to provide weather proofing or cooling, like some other high end prototyping systems require. It gave the students a better understanding of working with production type devices that can be resource limited.”

Jeff said that he had many favorite moments while working as a sponsor for Challenge X, especially seeing the faces of the students as they wrote software and programmed the controller to make the vehicle do what it was told. “Sometimes the algorithm was the right thing and sometimes it was the wrong thing, but the vehicle did as they told it to do,” he said. “To see them correlate the work they did to the action of the vehicle was one of the best moments.”

Jeff added that the organizers, sponsors and universities associated with the AVTC challenge made his time spent with the competitions some of the most memorable of his professional career. “I have enjoyed being a part of the competition and being able to see the students connect what they learn in the classroom to a real world application,” he said.

While at MotoTron, Jeff worked on many projects for alternative fueled vehicles, diesel after-treatment systems, engine controls and advanced marine projects. He was later presented with an opportunity to work at Cummins, Inc. and has been working there since 2009, currently serving as a controls technical specialist for advanced engineering.

Jeff said that AVTCs seem to get more complex each year, but the technology made accessible to the teams also gets better. “I think that as systems become more complex, engineers have to become much more cross disciplinary in their training,” he said. “I think this competition highlights that well.”