Not your Typical College Day: Transform this Camaro
March 19, 2015
Kaylie Crosby is the project manager overseeing a team of 134. Using the special technology of the auto industry, VDP (Vehicle Development Process) she and her team of engineers are working on making a Chevrolet Camaro more fuel-efficient while “retaining the vehicle’s performance, safety, and consumer appeal.”
Kaylie’s a fourth year student at the University of Alabama. Yes, she’s still in college.
While some of the work on this multimillion-dollar project is integrated into course work, the large majority of it is in addition to her studies in the University of Alabama’s 5-year STEM path to the MBA program.
I spoke with her on the phone a few days ago to learn more about what this mechanical engineer and her classmates are doing with their EcoCar 3 vehicle, the latest incarnation of the Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition, or, in the world of abbreviations, AVTC’s.
The AVTC’s have been around for more than 25 years and has involved 16,500 students across North America. This latest four-year competition is focused on fuel-efficiency, hence this round’s title: EcoCar 3.
“Sponsored by the Department of Energy and GM…and managed by Argonne National Laboratory, EcoCAR 3 challenges up to 17 North American universities to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles by minimizing the vehicle’s fuel consumption and reducing its emissions. Teams will follow a real-world Vehicle Development Process (VDP) to design and integrate their advanced technology solutions into a production light-duty vehicle donated by General Motors, gaining hands-on experience with industry-leading engineering tools and the latest vehicle components and technologies.”
For Kaylie, the process began when she found out her university had made the cut for the competition and she would be project manager.
“We start with a goal in mind—to successfully redesign and decide how we want the car to run.” To that end, she said they are looking at organic sustainability and the use of alternative materials for the Chevrolet Camaro’s interior and under the hood. In terms of research into her target market, she said the Tesla’s reputation for being fuel-efficient while still being sporty was inspiration.
Kaylie has a group of 134 to manage. To do that, she’s broken the team into three main categories: engineers, management team and the communications team. Within that, she has sub-teams. Engineering has 4 sub-teams, and communications and management have 6.
This rigorous test of leadership and engineering is a lot for a college student. But it’s one of the reasons the ATVC program is popular.
Since 2008, student participants have seen a “100% employment rate” because of the real-world experience as well as access to mentors in industry and government. The project has also “inspired 63 new courses at universities” aimed to address industry needs, according to the competition sponsors.
Kaylie says 4 of her team members have already been hired because of their work on the project, most of those are undergrads.
How did this young engineer feel about being a woman project manager on a team of mostly male engineers?
“It’s definitely something I’ve gotten used to in engineering and STEM—not a lot of females.”
But, then, showing her mathematical acuity she went to the statistics. Of her team of 134, 33 are women. “Which is about 25% of our entire team.” She added that that statistic mirrors the percentage of women in the auto industry, as well. And that percentage is higher than for engineers in general.
The final competition for Kaylie’s EcoCar 3 will be in the spring of 2018, well after she completes her MBA at the University of Alabama. Her successor will see the project through to that stage.
Leading EcoCar 3 has “strengthened me,” she said. And it’s been her favorite part of her college experience.
Want to follow the progress? The Green Garage is a virtual portal online where the public can follow the team’s progress throughout the competition as they take their technologies from design to reality. You can also follow on the blog that includes video and photography to chronicle competition progress. You can find the Green Garage at www.greengarageblog.org. Follow them on Twitter: @
Top Photo: Kaylie with U.S Secretary of Energy Dr. Earnest Moniz.
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