Fresh out of high school, Michael Barton immediately joined the Army National Guard. After finishing basic training, he began studies at the University of Akron in Ohio. In 2003, he was called to active duty for Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he spent the next 16 months – 13 of which were in Iraq and Kuwait. Michael remained in the National Guard until 2006, having returned to school a year before.
One day on campus, a simple invitation changed his life.
“One of my friends saw me on campus and told me he was working on hybrid vehicles for his Master’s degree,” he said. “He invited me to come down and help out. I never left.”
Michael was a full-fledged member of Akron’s ChallengeX team from 2005 to 2008, eventually becoming a senior design capstone participant and engineering team leader.
After graduating in 2008, Michael moved to Detroit to pursue a career with General Motors. He worked as a Vehicle Battery Cell Test/Development/Validation Engineer for two years, including the entire development time period for the Chevy Volt battery. Michael then transitioned into a job as a Battery Development Engineer specializing in high-voltage hardware. He continues in this development role today.
Michael believes he was well prepared to land his first job after his involvement with AVTC, especially since ChallengeX’s timing plan and process were based on GM’s Advance Vehicle Development process.
“Challenge X basically let me join GM with three years of experience,” he said. “I knew a lot more about how things are done in the automotive industry than my colleagues that hadn’t been members of teams like these.”
Michael said that documentation was his least favorite aspect of Challenge X. “Putting together summaries and results of all the work we had done was a bear, but it helped my organization and presentation skills immensely,” he said.
Overall, Michael has many favorite memories from his time on the Akron team. He especially enjoyed all the hours working in the shop with teammates who became some of his greatest friends.
“We spent a huge amount of time working on our vehicle, but we also had a great time,” he said. “Our shop was our pretty much our clubhouse, hangout, study hall, office.”