Team Tennessee’s Faculty Advisor in the Driver’s Seat

Written By: Emily King and David Goddard

As faculty advisor for the University of Tennessee’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) program since 2002, Butch Irick, a research assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has helped students engage in real-world vehicle development, from computer-aided design to developing marketing collateral.

UT_Blog6_Image1Throughout the years, AVTCs at UT have helped more than 800 UT students realize their potential in the engineering field. “Along the way, our students have had the opportunity to experience what it’s like to design and work on vehicles, which helps them immensely after graduation,” said Irick. He has challenged these students to do their best, and has supported them as they have navigated their first experiences of meeting deadlines, creating innovative work, and working in a multi-disciplinary team.

“Dr. Irick gave me the opportunity to turn my childhood dream into a career,” said Adian Cook, EcoCAR 3 Controls Team Manager and second year MSME candidate. Emily King, the Communications Manager for EcoCAR 3 and first year master’s candidate in the College of Communication and Information, seconds Cook’s sentiment, “Since I’m working in the communications aspect of the project, I had a steep learning curve to understand the basics of what the engineers are doing. Dr. Irick is able to take a step back from the technical side of the project and look at the program as a whole to discuss with our team. He has helped push me to take initiative in a field that is sometimes intimidating from a communications perspective.”

Eli Allen, a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering also understands the value of Dr. Irick’s time, “His dedication to the EcoCAR 3 program has given me the tools I need to pursue a career that interests me. Without Dr. Irick’s perseverance, this project would not be where it is today.”

But this year’s EcoCAR 3 team are not the only ones who share the appreciation for Dr. Irick’s hard work and dedication to his students. Scott Curran, who was a member of UT’s Challenge X team and now serves as an outreach faculty advisor for the EcoCAR 3 team also remembers what Dr. Irick’s dedication meant – and continues to mean – to him, “Dr. Irick was the first professor that gave me tangible insight into how much of a difference an engineering education could have in the real world. Not only did Dr. Irick inspire excellence in technical achievement from an engineering project, but he also provided an unparalleled example of showing urgency for meeting deliverable deadlines while balancing the other demands of projects and classwork. I still find myself holding up Dr. Irick’s example of technical achievements and the use of engineering principals – as opposed to ‘monster garage tinkering.’  Dr. Irick’s teaching in the classroom and beyond has remained one of the most influential experiences of both my undergraduate and master’s programs.”

The EcoCAR 3 team is grateful for all that Dr. Irick does to support the program and to continue UT’s long-standing tradition of AVTC participation that has helped advance the careers of so many UT graduates.