454940 Educating Chemical Engineers with Interest in the Automotive Industry

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Grand Ballroom B (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Gregory D. Chipman, Chemical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA and Thomas F. Fuller, School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

One of the current challenges facing chemical engineers is providing sustainable transportation. The environmental impact and limited quantity of oil cause current transportation solutions to be unsustainable. Chemical Engineers who desire to work in the automotive industry have an arduous path to follow to gain the necessary knowledge required of automotive engineers. The main two areas of need are in electrochemical engineering, which teaches about the fundamentals of battery, fuel cell, and capacitor technology, and automotive fundamentals like vehicle dynamics, controls, and motor performance. While standard chemical engineering curriculum provides the necessary foundational skills for future automotive engineers, there is room to introduce opportunities for those with interest in working in the automotive industry to gain experience and knowledge in their field of interest.

One program that has been introduced at Georgia Tech is the EcoCAR 3 program. EcoCAR 3 is an automotive competition sponsored by General Motors and the Department of Energy. The competition spans four years beginning in August of 2014. 16 universities in the United States and Canada have been challenged to electrify a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro into a hybrid electric vehicle. This provides an opportunity for engineering students with interest in the automotive industry to gain relevant experience. One of the challenges in making EcoCAR 3 beneficial is to overcome students knowledge gap. Tactics that have been found to be successful in helping students have included assigning tasks based on experience, providing appropriate training, providing clear guidance, being open for consultation, and constant communication.

EcoCAR 3 has provided chemical engineers with hands on opportunities to learn about the design process of the automotive industry. Successful engineers are characterized by a diverse skill set that gives them a more accurate view of the large picture. Engineers are also required to work in cross-collaborative efforts to successfully design complex products. Chemical Engineering students who have interest in working in the automotive industry are well served by participating on the EcoCAR 3 team as it gives them pertinent experience that broadens their knowledge and skillset for use in their future careers.

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