Where Are They Now: University of Waterloo’s Chris Mendes

Mendes (1st row, 5th from the right) during the 2006 ChallengeX Competition.

Mendes (1st row, 5th from the right) during the 2006 ChallengeX Competition.

Leading up to the completion of his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Waterloo, Chris Mendes saw a poster advertising the search for graduate student interested in working on the design of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

“I was looking for interesting and unique opportunities as a next step after graduation,” he said. “I had heard about hydrogen fuel cells before and thought the idea of a vehicle that produce no emissions other than water was very cool. The decision to apply to graduate school in order to work on this project was definitely an easy decision me.”

Chris joined the University of Waterloo’s Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) during the first year of ChallengeX while working on his master’s degree and focusing his research around the work that would be done on the team’s vehicle. During his first year on the team he was the UWAFT’s Technical Director, providing direction and management to all the technical teams – electrical, mechanical, simulation and chemical. He was promoted to co-team leader during his second year.

Like many Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) alumni, Chris said his favorite memories from being a part of the team were the late nights spent working on the vehicle with his fellow teammates. “The team had managed to attract a highly motivated group of students who were uniformly galvanized by the technical challenge of building this vehicle. Those late nights spent wrenching and solving design problems on the fly were simultaneously exhausting, invigorating and inspiring.”

Chris Mendes

Chris Mendes

After finishing his Master’s degree, Chris was immediately hired as a Controls and Electrical Engineer at a local start-up that was designing an electric motor with extremely high torque density. It wasn’t long before he left that position to co-found CrossChasm Technologies with his co-captain at UWAFT, Matt Stevens.

CrossChasm provides products, tools and expertise to the hybrid and electric vehicle community through their vehicle engineering consulting business, fleet management product (FleetCarma), and their in-dealership purchase advisory tools (MyCarma). While at CrossChasm, Chris has done a variety of vehicle engineering gigs, including designing an engine management system for a PHEV, developing the electric powertrain for a concept lunar rover for NASA, designing software for the Ford Focus EV and developing a wirelessly-managed in-vehicle logger.

Chris says that he thinks being involved in an AVTC provides many advantages, but one in particular stands out: the confidence to take on new challenges and to focus on the problems that matter.

“Building a vehicle with a small collection of students provides so many challenges in such short time that it forces you to prioritize the problems that really matter, and to ignore the problems that can either be solved later or that truly inconsequential,” he said. “I really admire how the competition has matured with the latest technology and tools. The integration of phones and informatics into vehicles is especially interesting, and very relevant these days.”