EcoCAR student turns hobby into future career

Posted: September 25, 2017

Andrew Huster
“Engineering was a hobby of mine, but EcoCAR gave me a place to turn my hobby into a project,” Andrew Huster said, the 2016 EcoCAR 3 team leader who red his Master’s Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering in August.

EcoCAR 3 is the latest Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors, and running from 2014 to 2018. The competition challenges sixteen universities in the U.S. and Canada to reengineer a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro into a performance hybrid vehicle.

Huster’s hobby-turned-project eventually turned into his future career. He joined General Motors (GM) as a feature integration engineer in August to begin validating the performance of automated driving and active safety features (such as blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning) on new GM vehicles. But his career could have taken another route had it not been for his experiences with the EcoCAR team.

After attending his first EcoCAR meeting, Huster felt right away the team would be a great fit for him.

“I knew I could use the engineering skills I had for a specific purpose. It also gave me something to do in my free time,” Huster said.

Huster started out as an electrical team member mid-way through year one of the EcoCAR 2 competition (2011-2014), which was based on a Chevrolet Malibu. He played a hands-on role putting electrical systems together for the vehicle. Huster then transitioned to electrical team leader where he had fewer hands-on responsibilities and spent most of his time coordinating members of his team and making sure projects were being completed. This role set him up for his final role with the team, team leader.  

“My favorite position to have on the team was team leader,” he said. “It gave me the systems engineering and integration perspective. All of the teams--mechanical, electrical, controls, and so on—have to complete their specific tasks and meet up at the end. Overseeing all of those activities let me get involved in areas that I’m not an expert in. That’s been really cool because I get to learn more about all of the different projects and tasks involved in building a car. Not that I could go and do them, but just to be exposed to it and have a greater understanding of how to put a vehicle together has been pretty neat.”

Having the opportunity to serve in these different roles has had a huge influence on Huster’s career.

“Originally, I thought I wanted to be a technical expert, someone who has really in-depth knowledge about a particular topic but doesn’t manage people,” Huster said. "But my leadership roles on the EcoCAR team have really changed my career goals.”

Between classes, time spent on EcoCAR (more than 30 hours per week!) and the various internships he’s had at Ford, GM and dSPACE, a mechatronic controls system company, Huster doesn’t have much free time, but when he does you can find him trading in four wheels for two and riding his bike around Columbus, or in the kitchen. “I make a good chipotle chicken.”

Story courtesy of Colleen Herr at the Center for Automotive Research