Similar to 56 percent of The University of Alabama student population, Evan Graves hails from out-of-state—Florida to be exact, but it’s Alabama that he’s lived in the longest. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the Alabama sunshine or the unstoppable football team that attracted Graves to The University of Alabama. “UA was a simple choice for me. I’m good at math and understand physics pretty well. It seemed like a logical choice to become an engineer with those strengths, and I knew Alabama had a successful engineering program,” Graves said.
Before graduating from The University of Alabama, Graves spent a year and a half on the UA EcoCAR 3 team. Graves joined the team his last semester of senior year and left midway through Year 2 once he completed his master’s degree. During his time with EcoCAR 3, Graves co-led the electrical team assisting with the powertrain design and running simulations to prove the design could achieve a successful performance. Graves also led the innovation research for Year 1, working on designing an energy storage system that took advantage of the benefits of a battery pack and a supplemental ultra-capacitor back.
“EcoCAR 3 gave me experience leading people and dealing with many different personalities on the team. No matter your role at General Motors, or any large company, you are going to have to make relationships, understand people from different backgrounds and encounter people who have different thought processes than you do. With the vast range of personalities, backgrounds and points of view that you get when working on a project as huge as EcoCAR 3, it’s easy to transition into a large company like General Motors,” Graves said, recalling how EcoCAR 3 prepared him for a career post graduation.
For Graves, it was General Motors that caught his attention. “I’ve always enjoyed working on my own cars and solving problems in general. I felt like being involved in vehicle development at GM would be a great way to merge those two interests.”
Graves works as an Active Safety Feature Integration Engineer at General Motors. He is responsible for integration, calibration and end performance of collision avoidance safety systems on various vehicle programs since he began his employment in January 2015. In layman’s terms, Grave’s duties lie with frontal collision avoidance, which alerts the driver and the vehicle’s automated braking system where there is an imminent crash about to occur with a pedestrian or another vehicle. He’s basically the engineering Superman of General Motors, saving lives one vehicle at a time!
However, Graves’ responsibilities go far beyond his job title. Between spending most of his time in a car on the test track, he manages to squeeze in time for meetings, in-vehicle testing, data analysis and a few side projects that aren’t directly related to his job. For example, Graves serves as the ADAS Competition Event Captain for EcoCAR 3, guiding teams through their ADAS challenges and successes during each annual competition. But for Graves, his passion lies on the track. “The more time I get to spend in a vehicle, the more beneficial I am to the company and the more improvements I can make to my systems.”
At the root of it all, Graves has a zeal and eagerness for finding solutions to problems. “I think it’s cool to be able to create something that helps make other people’s lives easier, whether it’s a simple tool, a complex machine or a software program.” EcoCAR 3 has impacted Grave’s career and has shaped him into the employee and engineer he is today. Without the learning experience, challenges and relationships encountered during his undergraduate and graduate careers at The University of Alabama, Graves wouldn’t be pursuing his passion for cars at General Motors like he is today.
Initially, relocating to Michigan was quite a shock to this native Floridian; however, Graves quickly found a niche in the large city of Detroit. “I try to see the other UA EcoCAR grads that are up here as much as I can, they are the closest family I have within 700 miles!” he said.
Graves spends his free time in Detroit visiting breweries, playing soccer and riding his newly purchased motorcycle, although he says it can be a bit difficult to ride in Michigan’s blistering cold weather.
You can’t forget Alabama football. According to Graves, “the UA crews gets together religiously for every game.” You can bet they were cheering on the Tide for our 17th National Championship!