There are very few GT EcoCAR alum Austin Matthews, whose tenure spans a total of 7 semesters, including time in both EcoCAR 3 and EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, had a significant impact on GT’s AVTC program. Matthews joined EcoCAR early on because he wanted a hands-on automotive project in addition to the coursework he was completing for his mechanical engineering degree. Austin remembers seeing a team description in an email from the school and being in disbelief that students were actually working on converting a real production car to a more efficient drivetrain. Matthews had some experience restoring an old Corvette with his grandfather, which he believes was helpful in enabling him to start contributing to the team quickly.
During EcoCAR 3, Matthews joined the Mechanical/Electrical sub-team and used frequency-domain analysis to fix powertrain vibrations on the EcoCAR 3 Camaro. His notable contributions to the team include placing first place in mechanical presentation the last two years of EcoCAR 3. Austin also played a key role in bridging the knowledge gap between EcoCAR 3 and the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, as this was the first occurrence of the GT team participating in two competitions consecutively.
Some of his fondest memories of his time on the team include endurance testing the Camaro via drive laps around I 285. He also mentions the over-the-road driving event in Los Angeles during EcoCAR 3 Year 4 competition as being a memorable experience.
According to Matthews, “the first leg was an uphill mountain drive through beautiful scenery.” He added, “I the privilege of driving the 2nd leg out of 3 through the western edge of the Mojave Desert, and stated it was so cool to be in a pack of university-branded Camaros cruising on public roads.”
Today, Austin is finishing up his master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. He has worked as a research assistant the past two years in a lab with the GT Strategic Energy Institute under Professor Tim Lieuwen. As an experimentalist, he collects and processes data from a high-pressure combustion facility to help develop cleaner, more efficient gas turbine engines. This summer, he started work in Denver CO as a test engineer for Ursa Major Technologies, a small company that creates liquid rocket engines for the emerging private micro-satellite launch industry. He is thankful for the hands-on experience with the full engineering process (conceptualize, design, integrate, test, refine) that he gained through EcoCAR.
“Having a sense for not only the design of a part but how it will be manufactured and tested is critical for overall success,” he said. “Lessons learned about design-for-manufacturing and project management have been immensely helpful as a researcher during graduate school, and I will no-doubt continue to pull from these experiences during my career,” he added.
EcoCAR not only impacted his professional career, but his personal life as well. He met his girlfriend, Catherine, at the EcoCAR 3 final competition in Hollywood, thousands of miles from where either of them lived. She had the same role on as he on the team, but for the University of Alabama team, and his upcoming move will be the first time that they have ever lived in the same city. During his time on the team, he also gained life-long friends with fellow Georgia Tech team members Sterling Smith, Raheem Khan, and Andrew Fillingim.
We look forward to seeing where Matthews’ career takes him.