Written By: Carrie Kilgore
Over the past 13 years, Mississippi State University (MSU) has competed in multiple Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs), starting with Challenge X and leading to the current competition, EcoCAR 3. Students who participate on the team get a unique hands-on experience in an industry-modeled program that provides them with diverse skills when entering the career field. This is especially true for MSU alum, Kyle Crawford, who utilized the knowledge and experience he gained while participating in Challenge X to further his career post college.
Kyle Crawford is from Columbus, Mississippi and earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at MSU in 2005. While continuing his education as a graduate student pursuing a Master’s in chemical engineering, Crawford joined Challenge X in the fall of 2005. He competed in Year 2 and Year 3 of the Challenge X competition and was responsible for the diesel emissions systems which included diesel particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction.
“Working on Challenge X as my graduate school project was attractive because it provided a very practical way to apply classroom learnings in a way that is relevant,” Crawford explains.
Because of his hard work and experience with Challenge X, Crawford landed a full-time job with General Motors, one of the headlining sponsors for Challenge X. Crawford now works for PACCAR, another competition-level sponsor, at the Columbus, Mississippi plant as a project engineer. His main responsibility is to oversee the implementation of the MY21 engine at the plant. Challenge X helped Crawford gain more understanding of cars and engines, which has given him a more diverse skillset.
“The experience of taking ownership of a project as a student was the start of a key trait in the workplace as it taught me about driving for results,” says Crawford.
For the past two years, Crawford has attended final competitions on behalf of PACCAR and participates as a judge or a recruiter. When asked if he would recommend participating in AVTCs to current college students, Crawford explains that he would absolutely encourage students to be involved.
“There is no better program at exposing students to working on practical, applicable, real-world programs than AVTCs. In addition, there are so many industries involved that provide a great way for learning, networking, and a good opportunity to find a company to start your career,” says Crawford.
As an AVTC alum, Crawford says that the best advice he can give to current team members of EcoCAR 3 is to utilize every resource that they’re given throughout the competition and always seek out advice. Crawford points out that competition-level sponsors are there to help teams when they get stuck or need a different perspective, so students should always take advantage of the opportunity to network and collaborate.
Like many other AVTC alumni, Crawford has created great memories through his participation on the MSU Challenge X team. When asked if there was any memory that stood out the most to him, Crawford was able to reflect back to Year 3 of Challenge X when the MSU team received 1st place overall at final competition.
“It was the first AVTC that Mississippi State participated in, and winning really made us proud to achieve that for our school. That was one of those moments when all the hard work and sleepless nights paid off for everyone,” explains Crawford.
AVTCs, like Challenge X and EcoCAR 3, take pride in the students that utilize this program and reap the rewards later in life. Kyle Crawford is just one of many AVTC alumni that have excelled in the workplace after participating in this unique program. The Mississippi State University EcoCAR 3 team is proud to have an alum like Crawford to not only represent the school, but also the team within a competition-level sponsor like PACCAR.