Meet EcoCAR Engineer Lucas Shoults and Mary the Malibu

By Dora Smith

Siemens PLM Software provides engineering student software to EcoCAR engineers like Lucas Shoults

Lucas Shoults is a first-year graduate student engineer at Virginia Tech (VT). He is majoring in mechanical engineering and is the business manager of VT’s EcoCAR 2 team. I met Lucas at the EcoCAR 2 Fall Workshop where he, his team and teams from 14 other universities received training in preparation for the third and final year of this collegiate engineering competition.

His story highlights how critical real-world engineering competitions like EcoCAR are to developing passionate engineers. He says in our video interview below that EcoCAR changed his college career and made him care about engineering.

So let’s learn more about Lucas and meet “Mary the Malibu” seen below in all her EcoCAR sponsor sticker glory.

Siemens PLM Software provides CAD for students in the EcoCAR collegiate competition

When did you know you wanted to be an engineer?

“I didn’t know I actually WANTED to be an engineer until my senior year of college when upon joining Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) I saw the knowledge I had gained throughout my undergrad actually be put to use in a very real and dynamic project. The reasons I joined HEVT was pretty simple. I didn’t know much about cars and figured I could take the opportunity to learn all the systems of a vehicle, specifically one that is a hybrid as that seems to be the direction that a lot of automotive manufacturers were headed. Secondly, I had a good friend who was team leader and I figured if I could get to hang out with him and grow some relationships with the people on the team, why not?”

Here more in this video interview where Lucas also shares how he became an NX and FEA expert for this team.

What lessons have you learned from EcoCAR 2? 
“The last 10% takes 90% of the time. Allow ample time for the mistakes that you will make and the unforeseen circumstances that you cannot control such as a delay in the shipment of a critical component.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I made a rather expensive mistake my first year on the team when dealing with the half shafts and I had to make sure that it was finally done correctly. However, because of that mistake I have been able to show guys on the team this year the correct way to take measurements for half shafts, ensuring that there won’t be another mistake like last year.

If all you care about is taking 1st place, you are doing it wrong. As much as this is a competition, the goal is the universal growth of knowledge and skill among all teams involved. It is hard enough to get a car working in the first place, the support and help we received from our ‘competitors’ was and is much appreciated. Shout out to University of Tennessee, thanks again for the half shaft.”

What advice would you give students considering engineering as a career?
“Do it. It will challenge you in various aspects of your life. Do not expect to have a normal college experience, because engineering is setting you up for a unique after college experience. Even if you decide at the end of your undergraduate to do nothing within the engineering field, I am confident that the lessons you will have learned about yourself, your study habits, ability to work through countless problems for hours attempting to solve it correctly, and just the work ethic that I have personally experienced and seen among my friends is hard to duplicate. So if you want to be challenged, engineering is a great field. If you just have no idea about what you want to do, engineering is a great field. But if you know what you love, and it is not engineering, do not do engineering, do what you love. I am thanking God I can now, as a first-year graduate student in mechanical engineering, say I love what I do.”

It’s clear Lucas and his teammates love what they’re doing. Here’s a picture of them at the EcoCAR 2 Fall Workshop:

Virginia Tech's EcoCAR uses engineering student software from Siemens PLM Software

Good luck to all the EcoCAR 2 teams in this final year of the competition.

I wonder what other nicknames the teams have given their Malibus ;-).

– Dora

P.S. Stay tuned here and on our academic projects web page for the latest on great student competitions.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at