When Derek Bonderczuk began to enjoy MATLAB and Simulink in his vehicle dynamics class, little did he know those interests and skills would lead him to EcoCAR and his future career. Derek joined the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) EcoCAR 2 team in April of 2012 and shortly after had an internship with competition sponsor, dSPACE. The internship only strengthened Derek’s interest and was very beneficial for the controls side of the team’s work. As a junior, he became the controls lead for the ERAU EcoCAR 2 team and worked to develop the control system for the team’s Chevrolet Malibu. Quickly, Derek began to understand the amount of work required of a team lead, and took it in stride by developing a fully working control system by the final year of the competition.
Derek’s favorite part of controls was the uniqueness of the position. According to Derek, “As controls lead, I was able to understand the entirety of the system such that no area of the car was a ‘black box.’” Unlike mechanical or electrical positions, controls is a less defined position that focuses on numerous aspects of the car from software and mechanical design to modeling of different systems. Derek was able to start with a rudimentary system of development by taking concepts of existing systems, applying them to EcoCAR, and furthering their design. Thus, he developed a strong model for the EcoCAR 2 Malibu, and helped lay the foundation for future vehicle development at Embry-Riddle. One of his other accomplishments while he was with EcoCAR was a one-pedal drive feature. Not only did he develop this feature on the ERAU Malibu, but he also went on to work with a team at General Motors to help develop the feature for the Chevrolet Bolt.
Derek is currently an Algorithm Design Development Engineer working at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. As an Algorithm Design Development Engineer, he works upon an Electrification Energy Management group to determine how GM will manage energy for the best efficiency, fuel mileage, and driving performance. In comparison to the controls lead position, Derek said his current position is more focused with many more eyes and minds helping to develop the best in hybrid operations.
Derek said, “The key takeaway I’ve had from the program is to think outside of the box. It can often be the case that the tools presented are the only tools you can use to solve the problem at hand, but that’s not always the case. The ability to be able to step back to take a larger look to solve the problem, and ask better questions is very valuable.”