Communications and youth outreach have always played a vital role in Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions. The students involved in communications and outreach are from a variety of majors and bring diverse backgrounds into a primarily engineering-focused collegiate team. AVTCs enable students to develop important public speaking and communication skills, as well as the opportunity to network in their community to improve public awareness about energy-related issues. Most notably, AVTC students help inspire youth in their community to pursue STEM careers and help attract and retain new and diverse students onto their teams.
Not only does it integrate AVTC teams with their local community, it informs and educates the community about alternative vehicles and energy. These programs help to make the community aware of what the competitions accomplish, as well as educate the youth and public communities on advanced vehicle technologies and alternative fuels.
The Beginning of Outreach in AVTCs
During FutureTruck, universities were challenged with managing their own media relations in each community. However, the communication aspect of AVTCs became more structured during Challenge X: Crossover to Sustainable Mobility, and opened up opportunities for students from different disciplines to get involved in the competition. For the first time in competitions, students from public relations and marketing majors were able apply their classroom learning in communication to the AVTC program.
The following year, the outreach program was officially integrated into AVTCs as a scored part of the program, consisting of specific goals and deliverables. “Outreach Coordinator” became an official role on each Challenge X team and student outreach coordinators worked on ways to reach out to the local community and youth.
Almost a decade later, the outreach coordinator role has transformed into the title of “Communications Manager.” While the name has changed, the role is just as important in educating the public, youth, and media on the benefits of advanced vehicle technologies.
Importance of Education and Outreach
One of the primary roles of the communications and outreach program is to educate the youth and public on the benefits of advanced vehicle technologies and alternative fuels. Over the years, these students have held an impressive number and variety of outreach events, including traveling to K-12 schools, hosting consumer events and garage tours, presenting at industry conferences, and displaying at auto shows and media events. The communication and outreach program also led the student engineers from the garage out into the community, where they talked to consumers and the public about their vehicle design and the importance of advanced vehicles.