What do football and engineering have in common? For Jesse Alley, it was a conversation during a football game that eventually led to his first gig as an engineer. Jesse received a bachelor’s degree in engineering in 2010. Just last month he earned his master’s degree in engineering. His thesis focused on fuel economy modeling for automotive vehicles.
When did you decide to become an engineer?
“When I was pretty young, I thought there were only three things you could be – a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. I’ve always liked taking things apart and was good at math and science. I didn’t like biology or rules, so that meant I was going to be an engineer by default. I remember thinking later that I didn’t want to do automotive engineering – that it seemed cliché. I thought I wanted to do something different. The reality is I am doing something different. I’m focused on teaching and educating – it just happens to be in the automotive field.”
Jesse was team leader of the EcoCAR team at VirginiaTech. He recently started working full-time at Argonne National Laboratory. I should say he’s now getting paid to work full-time since his volunteer work on EcoCAR has been more than a full-time job for the past three years.
How did you find out about EcoCAR?
“I didn’t hear about it until late in my sophomore year. I was watching football with the team leader at the time (who now works at GM). He started talking about senior design projects. Our senior design project is a team project. He encouraged me to consider EcoCAR. There are other projects like FSAE, Baja SAE and robotics programs, but EcoCAR is unique. The team has 20-25 senior mechanical engineers and it corporates other disciplines such as electrical and software engineering and communications and business. It spans three years so three sets of senior engineers. There is no systems engineering curriculum to design and build your EcoCAR – you learn from hands-on experience.”
What is your role at Argonne National Laboratory?
“I manage the structural waiver process, ESS design process, safety & technical inspections and competition rules. When I was involved from the team side, we were locked into the process. Now I get to help design and manage the process. Now I’m writing the rules, designing the constraints and working to have a successful competition.”
Tell us about your experience with EcoCAR and NX that has helped shape your career.
“My experience in EcoCAR thoroughly shaped my technical career and goals/objectives. It helped further define who I am as a person. It helped me improve my work ethic, team communication, time management as well as deal with hardships. It was a tremendous amount of work but well worth it. During the school year, I was logging an average of 40 hours a week; in my busiest week, I logged 67 hours. Being team lead is very challenging and rewarding. It is like being a manager.”
Here’s a video interview of Jesse giving a good overview of EcoCAR with MyTownTV16:
“I have extensive experience with NX. I used CAD tutorials to teach myself the software. I used NX to do all the packaging. With EcoCAR, GM gives us the full CAD model of the vehicle, a 2013 Chevy Malibu. It’s an amazing complex file – 8 gigabytes with everything from the mechanical design to electrical and controls, it even includes details on the spray-on sealant. I also used NX Nastran to analyze the vehicle with finite element analysis. It was really valuable to work with the mechanical and electrical and controls in the same software. It saves a ton of time when making design changes based on analysis results.”
How were you recruited through EcoCAR2?
“Since Argonne manages the competition, they advertised the job opening at the competition events. Kristen De La Rosa also contacted me directly. It was clear from the job description and my biography that this was a perfect fit. I could hit the ground running.”
Kristen De La Rosa agrees. She told me:
“Jesse brings to the table an enormous amount of experience, having worked on the program for four years as a student. He is a great addition to our team. His experience working with NX enabled him to get this job.”
Jesse is proud to be focused on making future engineers. He takes that to the next level inspiring younger kids to consider engineering.
“Service is deeply engrained in me. So it’s great that instead of making products I’m helping make future engineers. In my book, ‘People’ beat ‘stuff’ every time.”
That’s Jesse’s story. What’s yours?