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Automotive Concerned about hiring after graduation. (Engine guy)

  1. Mar 1, 2012 #1
    Id like responses from people with personal experience with Automotive and specifically, Engine design engineering. I attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I am a motorsports engineering student at one of the 5 or so schools in the nation that offer a specific motorsports BSME. We are in the heart of racing country, almost all of the NASCAR teams are just north of us in Mooresville NC. Our shop is funded by the Alan Kulwicki foundation, and we have much resources in our shop from a water brake engine dyno to a chassis dyno for our FSAE car that we run each year.

    I am concerned about the hiring situation that I will face when I graduate in December. When I started school the recession had not yet hit and everyone graduating with an engineering degree was being fought over, this is not the case anymore as we all know.

    A little about myself, I was an automotive service and body/frame technician until i was 24. I herniated a disc in my back and was unable to continue a labor type job even though I was in the sector (automotive) that I had chosen since I was a boy helping my grandpa repair anything from boats to tractors. I have roughly 10 years experience including time while studying in the automotive service/body/frame sector. I have concentrated on automotive/motorsports engineering since Ive been studying and specifically engine design. I have taken graduate level thermodynamics (second law analysis) and graduate level automotive engines taught by a man that was a NASCAR Cup winning technical director (Lead engine guy) for Roush Yates racing.

    I have no internship so far, I have been requested to keep in touch by Borg-Warner turbo systems for a possible internship this summer. ( If I can get one, Im going to do it for sure.)
    I do have much, much experience on the "shop floor". All my life Ive heard the guys on the shop floor complain about how the engineers know all of the math but they don't know how to design stuff that can be manufactured or worked on in any sort of efficient manner. I will have the ability to forsee these things as I have been a tech myself and my father is a 30 + year CNC machinist.

    The things that I think are to my advantage include,
    Coming from "race city" at a University that has put alot of time and money into their motorsports program.
    Being a service tech and have had my hands on every tool known to a tech.
    Having done MAJOR framework on automotive applications for repair.
    Having taken the next step in thermo and engines, taking the graduate level courses.
    Not taking the "easy" teacher, ever. I have always wanted the hardest teacher I can find. (Not the bad teacher, but the one who everyone avoids and has small class sizes because my peers arent up to the challenge.)
    I feel like even though the hard teachers are going to end me up with a lower GPA, I will in the end learn more and be a better engineer. I know for a fact that I learn more in classes I end up with a "C" in than the ones that I breezed through and earned an "A" or a "B" in.
    I have worked through my entire college career, both for myself at my shop at home and for a guy that I have been working with for 5 years that can attest to my ability to "Get it done, however need be."
    I have an engine calculator that Ive been working on that is a thermodynamic model, It will allow the user to compare two engines given inputs, it includes,
    -chemical combustion calculations
    -heat transfer in the cylinder
    -a fully adjustable range of P=c to V=c combustion
    -adjustable spark timing
    -cam timing
    -inertial forces and pressure forces on the crank
    -etc... its really all the way out there.

    I will be starting on another calculator here soon,
    -It will analyze crankshaft dynamics for a flat plane v-8,cross plane 90 american v8 and various degree banking 6 cylinders. ( I may just add the straight 6 in there, b/c I like them...very well balanced.)
    - It will show polar force/moment graphs for bearing and block/oil system design criteria.
    -It will show any unbalance, where its at and its magnitude for the user.

    I also am on the FSAE 12' Engine team, we will be implementing a positive displacement supercharger/intercooler setup that is bypassed once the restrictor pulls sonic. This included the drive system, mounting, tuning and cam design.
    -Our team placed ~20th last year even not passing tech at two of the dynamic events, we should very well be able to place top ten in Michigan this year with our 12' car.

    The things that I believe that are to my disadvantage include,
    -My age, I am graduating at 30 years old.
    -My GPA, since ive done the hardest subject I can think of short of modern physics my GPA is suffering ~2.5
    -GPA is also suffering b/c Ive had to work and survive on my own this whole time, nobody is holding my hand.

    Really it is only the GPA that Im worried about, I think that if someone passed me by for an engine design job only on the count of my GPA they would be foolish. Ive really worked my *** off here and taken every challenge thrown my way. The result is a suffering GPA, and a well soaked,well challenged brain.

    I keep hearing so much about "you have to have a 3.0 to get hired" blah blah blah, it has me freaking out here.

    BTW I have always been told that I associate with people that are much older than me far better than any young person that has been seen, my interpersonal skills with people a generation or two ahead of my are superb. I also don't back down from challenges (Like the crank calculator, this was offered by my professor as a group project only but no one would jump on it with me so im doing it by myself.)

    Do I really have anything to worry about? I want to be an engine engineer so damned bad I can taste it. I cant even get it out of my mind when Im drinking beer with my buddies on the weekend, still drawing crank diagrams on napkins at the bar.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 1, 2012 #2
    What is your intended job destination?
  4. Mar 1, 2012 #3
    Engine design at a major OEM or a decent level race team. Doesn't have to be F1 or Cup. Id rather stay away from joe blow's could fail operation.
  5. Mar 16, 2012 #4
    Its not just in the service side, us parts countermen say the same thing. Some engineers may not be able to do service anything simply because they just design. I know a drag racing chassis builder thats been around everything from working with Mickey Thompson to Big Daddy down in Florida, he once told me chassis builders who don't race, only get 'it' to a point then its kind of iffy from then on. I believe its true about anyone in engineering, if you don't experience things that happen to your product or assembly and don't analyze properly you won't dwell on what can be done or could be done to improve.

    Smokey Yunick was self taught and knew who to keep in touch with when he needed some insight, Joe Mondello was and still is an icon in Pontiac power, Grumpy jenkins was one who revolutionzed engine building in drag racing since he was more formally educated than others. Keith Black, Reher-morrison, Darin Morgan, Larry Meaux, Curtis Boggs, Mike Jones, Larry Widmer, Jim Mcfarland, Mike Chapman and John Kaase are just a few guys that have brought a whole new batch of power producing engineering within the last two or so decades from how I see it. One person whom unfortunately was killed in a racing accident was Clay Smith. I wonder where motorsports and OEM vehicles would be if he were still around. Check out Sir Harry Ricardo too.

    My first choice of profession was to become an automotive engineer. At the time I thought I would have spent too much on math courses alone so I didn't attempt. I went through 4 years of tech school in auto and heavy diesel tech, i will have to teach myself the calc, thermodynamics etc. albeit its quite a bit, its still what you say a challenge that can be conquered. Being 26, I am finally getting around to studying the topics I need to, encompassed in heavy truck and trailer parts, automotive parts. I see what happens, what problems come up etc same as you have experienced as well. But, then again, did the customer abuse it you know?

    I am currently designing a piece to be used in cargo transportation, but I have been planning on building combustion testing tools and other assessment tools for building engines gas or diesel. Everytime I go through some in the engine, i have another idea come up and I note it so I don't forget it. Being in school its easier to make time because your graduating relies on your papers and projects etc, the only times I have time to do much is after work and any other time I have nothing going on which is slim. Pain in the butt, but I make it work.

    I suggest look at a broader range than just OEMs, F1 or Sprint Cup. Check Drag racing, boats etc too just so you know what else may be available. I know how you are feeling as far as being anxious and determined. Just remember, if you want to learn something and you aren't able to do it in school, do it at home in the garage, heck if I even had a garage I would be testing engines and porting & flowing heads nightly if I could!!! I have some big plans for shop in the future which I intend to achieve.

    Thinking outside of the box is key! Best of luck in your education.
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