Penn State EcoCAR Alumni Thrive in the “Real” World

Entering the “real world” after four or more years at a college or university can be quite daunting.  Many college seniors share similar thoughts: “Will I find a job that’s right for me?”; “Will I get along with my co-workers?”; “Will I be successful?”

The success that all college seniors try to attain does not come without hard work and dedication to job-related activities during the college years.  Although EcoCAR is a fun and competitive way for engineers to foster their interests, it is also a great “real world” experience that can ultimately lead to excellent career opportunities.

Former Penn State EcoCAR team members Bryan Chambers and Tushar Swamy currently work for A123 Systems, one of the core sponsors of batteries and technical support for the EcoCAR Challenge.  Chambers is presently a mechanical engineer for the company, helping to diagnose problems and improve the design of battery packs for hybrid buses.  Although his role in the drivetrain group did not tie in directly with battery pack work in EcoCAR, Bryan gained other knowledge from taking part in the competition.

“I learned how to work with a large team, how to adapt to sudden changes and how to solve problems that don’t have an answer in the back of the book,” Chambers said.

Tushar Swamy and Bryan Chambers, currently employed by A123 Systems

Tushar Swamy and Bryan Chambers, currently employed by A123 Systems

Tushar Swamy, former energy storage group leader for Penn State EcoCAR and a current employee of A123 Systems, works with the lithium ion battery module design and development group.  Swamy works to better understand the characteristics of battery modules in order to modify the batteries and make them more efficient.

“Since the work I did for the competition is similar to what I do at A123 Systems, it is safe to say that EcoCAR provided a brilliant platform for my current work,” Swamy stated.

Three other Penn State graduates from the EcoCAR team recently began jobs working with one of EcoCAR’s headline sponsors, General Motors. Former Penn State drivetrain member Ben Koch started working at the GM powertrain testing site in Milford, Michigan in August. Currently, Koch is working with noise issues in hybrid systems in the Noise and Vibration Division.

“Many of the hybrid technologies are pretty new and are just coming to the market. Having dealt with the systems in the GM-donated vehicle during EcoCAR, I got a good understanding of many of the technologies involved,” Koch said.

Ben Koch

Ben Koch in a Chevy Volt at his new job with General Motors in Milford, Michigan.

Marty Lechner is now an electrical performance engineer at GM

PSU EcoCAR alum Marty Lechner also started at GM in August as an electrical performance engineer. He is responsible for integrating a 12-volt system and validating vehicle software on the Chevy Volt. As a former auxiliary power unit group leader, Lechner acknowledged that he had previous experience through EcoCAR with many of the tools that he uses today on a day-to-day basis.

“My first week at GM was all an introduction to hybrids,” said Lechner, “I was so well prepared that I was actually able to explain some of the differences between the two-mode hybrid and an extended-range electric vehicle.”

GM’s newest employee from Penn State EcoCAR just graduated from Penn State in December. Picking up from where he left off as part of Penn State’s EcoCAR team, former controls group leader Todd Ace now works on optimizing the fuel and electricity usage for a new platform of hybrid vehicles.

Todd Ace continues to work with hybrid vehicles - for GM!

“Hybrids are becoming more and more complicated,” Ace said. “It takes teams of engineers to squeeze out the most fuel mileage while lowering emissions of newer vehicles. I wouldn’t know where to begin without my hands-on experience with EcoCAR.”

Although these alumni admit they miss everything about Penn State (from football games to all-nighters in the garage with the team), they all credit Penn State and EcoCAR for their recent career successes.  Without the hands-on experience provided by the competition, many of these individuals would not be where they are today.  Each one of them is an example of what hard work and commitment during college can do for a student’s career in the long run.  The Penn State EcoCAR team would like to congratulate these alumni on their newfound careers and wish them lots of future success!