Written by: Mattie Whitt
Spring of 2013 was the start of a new beginning for Arizona State University (ASU) Polytechnic. Applying to become a participant in the prestigious Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC), EcoCAR 3 is no small feat. An extensive report was collected together for submission to Argonne National Laboratory. EcoCAR 3 represented a long history of successful of AVTCs in the past. One ASU student, Josh Conter, was there from the very beginning helping craft this important deliverable. Josh, now a part of the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering Alumni association, took time out of his busy day to reflect and discuss his experiences during this time and the time he spent on the ASU EcoCAR 3 team.
Only a short year has passed since Josh graduated with his Bachelor of Science in engineering. Since then, he began working at General Motors helping in the development of new cutting-edge architectures. Being a New Mexico native, he explained that leaving the warm temperatures of Arizona and trading it in for 32 inches of snow a year was not easy. “Everything has changed since moving up here” Josh said. Since graduation, Josh has worked in Milford, Michigan at the GM proving grounds as an associate architect-engineer. There, like his time on EcoCAR 3, he spends most of his days pouring over system modeling and simulations (SM&S). Josh spent almost two years on the SM&S team, leading the team during his last year on the project.
While new to the automotive industry starting his professional career, Josh has had a passion for vehicles his whole life. Working for a company like GM is a dream of many engineers. He believes, “working with the best teaches you how to work with the top talent in the industry.” Josh describes, “The stress of tight deadlines is just as real now as it was back in EcoCAR. The ability to work together and quickly find solutions is an asset in such a competitive industry.” With dedication and commitment to projects such as EcoCAR 3, the program “teaches you an invaluable skill set,” and sets EcoCAR 3 graduates far apart from any other student organization.
After walking across the stage last December, Josh’s legacy continues to inspire the students he left to finish what he started. The influence felt by his fellow Sun Devils is probably what this recent graduate may not recognize or even realize. Corey Page, the current SM&S lead at ASU and a recent hire for GM as well explained, “Josh taught me everything I know. I probably owe my job at GM because of him.” Josh passionately stated that, “My whole life was EcoCAR and school. My personal goal was to learn as much as possible. School does not teach you enough; it does not simulate real life. School is meaningless unless you learn to use it. EcoCAR is as close as you can get to the real world.”
It is important to remember that all the alumni of AVTC are in various stages of their own life. Some of these graduates are quickly approaching their 30-year anniversary of the Methanol Marathon challenge held back in 1988, while other former students are celebrating their third year from EcoCAR 2. Perhaps the focus is not about the immediate success Josh Conter has experienced but following in the footsteps of previous graduates of prior AVTCs. More importantly, it is about giving the Sun Devils that will come after him the opportunity to believe that they too, one day, will be somewhere beyond where they currently are now. They overcome their current challenges by showing intense dedication, commitment, and passion for what they do. After all, AVTCs create lasting change in surrounding communities as alumni make an impact on friends, families, communities and industry.