West Virginia University has had the unique opportunity to be involved with Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions in various competitions for over two decades. Hundreds of WVU students have flourished in these programs, gaining valuable career experience from working with alternative fuel vehicles and industry professionals. The WVU EcoCAR 3 team prides itself on the growing number of women in STEM on the team. WVU’s female roster increased from just two female students to nearly a dozen in less than one year.
Take a moment to meet a few of the stellar females on WVU’s EcoCAR3 team:
Meet Sabrina Ridenour
Ridenour, a senior Mechanical Engineering student, serves as the team’s System Safety Lead and a Mechanical team member. After joining the team in Fall 2016, she began finding ways to not only develop her design skills, but to also establish herself as a leader on the team.
“I loved having my internship with General Motors during the summer of 2016,” said Ridenour. “I really wanted to get into design. EcoCAR was the perfect way to keep involved with GM while gaining some design experience.”
While she is currently WVU’s only female team lead, Ridenour works closely with other female students on the team and around the Statler College to encourage greater female participation in STEM field. She attributes much of her career and team recruiting inspiration to one of the competition’s main sponsors.
Meet Megan Wilbur
Megan Wilbur, a Biometric Systems and Computer Engineering student, joined the team in January 2017. Her interest was sparked after seeing promotion for the competition and team member recruitment on Facebook, but says a classroom visit during WVU’s Fall recruiting series was her true deciding factor.
“Matthew (WVU EcoCAR 3 Engineering Manager) had planned for some of the members of EcoCAR to come and talk in one of my classes about what they were doing and it seemed interesting,” said Wilbur. “I had no idea how cars worked and thought it would be a great learning experience.”
Wilbur, who is now a member of the System Modeling and Simulation (SMS) team, is centering her focus on mastering Simulink and helping the team grow.
“The more people on the team, the better,” said Wilbur.
She even has a bit of advice for females and other engineers who may feel hesitant to get more actively involved in the STEM field.
“If you like what you are doing, then go for it,” Wilbur encouraged. “Don’t be afraid to become more involved with your studies and program, you’ll meet more people and have more fun.”
Meet Cortney Mercer
As a member of the Electrical team, Mercer spends her time refining the vehicle’s electrical system and updating the computer-aided design (CAD) models to reflect Year 3 improvements. Mercer, who is driven by passion, says that the diverse opportunities for hands-on training helped her decide on becoming an EcoCAR 3 participant.
“I had a co-op in the Spring of 2016 in the trucking industry, and after being involved with trucking I was interested in learning more about the automobile industry, as well as getting hands-on experience,” said Mercer. “I had been encouraged to join from a few different members, and after consideration, I decided that EcoCAR 3 would be a good fit for me.”
As she finishes her degree in Mechanical Engineering, Mercer hopes EcoCAR 3 will give her a leg up beyond just her engineering courses.
“This project has solidified my foundation of more than just engineering, it has taught me a lot about teamwork, meeting deadlines, and being held accountable for a task at hand,” Mercer said. “My advice for any female interested in a STEM field is to do as you love and never give up. You can do anything with a little bit of effort.”
Meet Jessi Hartsell
Jessi Hartsell, a sophomore Mechanical Engineering student, joined the team in Fall 2016 as one of the team’s youngest members. Her fearless attitude didn’t slow her down as she quickly set off to Fall Workshop to stand in as the System Safety Lead.
“I have a passion for engineering and it is only fueled further when anything mechanical is involved,” said Hartsell. “I have always had a love for cars and how they work so this was a perfect combination of my passion and love. Be proud of being a female in STEM and use it to your advantage.”
Meet Hannah Gilbert
Hannah Gilbert attributes the enthusiasm of team members like Hartsell to her reason for joining the project in January of 2017. As a Computer Engineering student, Hannah quickly found interest in the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) team during WVU EcoCAR 3‘s fall recruitment series.
“I first learned about EcoCAR 3 when current team members gave an introductory presentation in several of my classes last semester,” said Gilbert. “When I learned about all of the relevant experience that could be attained, in such a rapidly growing field, the decision was easy.”
While Gilbert is working hard to get up to speed on the project, she recognizes that her and the project’s impact goes far beyond WVU.
“I believe it is important for females to be represented on our team as role models for young girls interested in STEM related majors, so they know there is nothing they can’t do,” said Gilbert.