Where Are They Now Wednesdays: UWAFT’s Devin Cass

Devin Cass began his studies in electrical engineering at the University of Waterloo.  While walking around campus he saw recruitment posters for the school’s Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT).  He started stopping by the team’s garage after class and began to build relationships with its members, leading him to be a part of the ChallengeX team from 2004-2008.

Over the years, Devin held a variety of positions on his team. During his third year, as Outreach Director, he traveled to Milford, MI where he presented the team’s activities. He was also very involved in the technical aspects of the vehicle, debugging various circuits and control software problems. After the competition, Devin took on a broader technical role and prepared the vehicle for conferences and events.

One of Devon’s most memorable, and stressful, ChallengeX memories was when his team demonstrated their vehicle to the CEO of General Motors. The UWAFT vehicle powertrain system wasn’t functioning properly when the CEO went to take a look at their vehicle.

“We left it idling because there was a risk that if it turned off, it wouldn’t turn back on without us intervening with our computers and being in an embarrassing situation,” he said.  “When he got into the car he turned the ignition off. We thought we were about to be embarrassed in front of the CEO of GM. Miraculously, when he turned the ignition to start it back up, it did! We had never been more proud of our work.”

After graduating from the University of Waterloo, Devin landed his first job at a co-op with current EcoCAR 2 competition sponsor, Research in Motion (RIM).

“The biggest lesson that I took to my first job can be summarized by the expression: ‘measure twice, cut once,’” he said. “Being involved with UWAFT taught me so much in terms of working with others, making decisions quickly, thinking on my toes and improvising and communicating in a stressful environment.”

Devin is currently a Power Applications Engineer at Qualcomm in San Diego, California.

“My career path diverged from alternative fuel vehicles,” he said, “but I have stayed involved in power conversion and hope to someday merge my experience in the automotive industry and electronic industry in my own venture.”

Devin adds that the Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) program is a great way for students to take on engineering and business-oriented roles. He encourages any student involvement in the program.

“The collaborative environment where students can mix their engineering theory with actually getting their hands dirty and learning to use some tools is something I believe to be immensely valuable,” he said. “The program encourages development of a well-rounded engineer, and I believe the technology industry could greatly benefit from more of that type of graduate.”