Meet the Leaders of UA’s EcoCAR Team

With approximately 100 members on The University of Alabama’s EcoCAR team, there are several notable individuals who lead their subteams to success. Three of these leaders do a lot of work behind the scenes and deserve recognition for their hard work.

Ashley Phan — Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) Lead

Ashley Phan has been with EcoCAR since 2016, and the many years of involvement she has under her belt makes her one of our most experienced team leads. Recently, Phan won the General Motors Women in STEM award at the EcoCAR Year 1 competition in May. Phan is from Hoschton, GA, and has two undergraduate degrees in computer engineering and mathematics. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science.

As the CAVs Lead, Phan manages all of the areas that contribute to the functionality of an SAE level 2 autonomous vehicle. These fields include adaptive cruise control, machine learning, vehicle-to-everything, human-machine interface and sensor fusion with tracking. One of the things she has learned while being a leader is the importance of finding the line between being a friend and making an impact on students.

“Being a friend but also a leader is an important thing to maintain. While I want my students to be honest and trust me as a friend, I also need to make sure they still respect me as a leader and help contribute to the tasks I’ve assigned them,” Phan explained.

Additionally, her experience with EcoCAR has improved her ability to organize the CAVs team and integrate everyone’s ideas. In order to maintain cross-functionality on such a large team, organization is key. Not only does she communicate and work together with her members, but she also informs all the other subteams and faculty advisors of what they are getting done.

In the future, Phan aspires to become a software engineer and eventually, a university professor. For now, she is looking forward to seeing the Blazer on the test track operating with the implemented CAVs features.

Jordan Olson — Systems Safety Lead Engineer

Hailing from Galesburg, IL, and pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, Jordan Olson joined UA EcoCAR his junior year after looking into design teams on campus and becoming immediately intrigued by how interdisciplinary the EcoCAR team is. From there, he contributed as much as he could to the team. His hard work and commitment led him to become the systems safety lead engineer.

Olson wears multiple hats as a member of EcoCAR. As the systems safety lead engineer, his responsibilities are to write functional and safety requirements for the vehicle. These cover “what-if” scenarios such as: “How will the vehicle respond if a radar signal is lost?” Olson is also a member of the propulsion system integration mechanical team, where he leads the design of the coolant system for the electric powertrain components.

During his time in the competition, Olson has flourished as a leader by learning how to optimize team members’ skills. As he explains, “EcoCAR has taught me how to best leverage the unique skill sets of team members. For instance, if I know one of my teammates is really good at CAD design and another is a skilled machinist, I can use that to our advantage both in terms of meeting project deadlines as well as helping share knowledge between team members.”

One of his favorite things about EcoCAR is how everyone shares a love of learning. He constantly looks forward to not only building his own skill sets, but also the opportunity to learn something from someone in a different team when he is in the workshop.

Looking to the future, Olson has aspirations to become a research and development engineer. For now, he is excited for his first-ever competition deliverable. While it is a bit nerve-racking, he is ecstatic to know he will have a direct impact on how the team performs this year.

Hunter Bates Propulsion Controls and Modeling (PCM) Lead

Hunter Bates has a competitive spirit and a fire to succeed, which makes him one of our most driven team leads. He is from Meridianville, AL, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. When he was planning on going to graduate school, he found out about the GRA positions that were available with EcoCAR and soon applied to become UA’s PCM lead.

As the PCM team lead, Bates works on modeling the vehicle in MATLAB Simulink, while also developing and testing the control algorithms for all components in the vehicle. Basically, he makes sure everything in the car works correctly and tells the car what to do.

EcoCAR has taught him a lot about leadership and problem-solving. In terms of problem-solving, Bates says he has gained a great deal of experience.

“A majority of my time is spent trying to figure out why certain components are not working. I have had to learn how to develop tests and perform analyses. It’s extremely challenging, but eventually we are able to solve our problems,” he explained.

In terms of leadership, he has realized the key is the ability to communicate and assign work based on the specific team member. Every team member is unique and requires a different type of leadership.

After EcoCAR, Bates would love to find a job he will genuinely enjoy, and would like to live in or around Huntsville. For now, he is looking forward to seeing how well our Blazer performs compared to other schools.

It requires a lot of organization to bring everyone together for such a large project, so these experienced individuals are crucial to us having a successful team. We are very proud of these three individuals and every single member of The University of Alabama EcoCAR team!