Wayne State EcoCAR3 team receives valuable sponsorship and mentoring from General Motors

The Wayne State University EcoCAR3 competition team recently received a donation of $20,000 from General Motors (GM) — a headline sponsor of the competition, along with the U.S. Department of Energy. Christopher Trush, an engineering group manager for transmissions at GM Powertrain, delivered the check and met with the team at the WSU College of Engineering.

Trush serves as the team’s mentor and main liaison with GM. He provides information, guidance and technical expertise as they compete against 15 other schools in North America to enhance a GM Camaro, reducing its environmental impact while maintaining the iconic vehicle’s performance. Expertise comes from all over GM, with Trush often reaching out to colleagues throughout the company on behalf of the students and faculty advisor Jerry Ku, associate professor of mechanical engineering at WSU.

Mechanical engineering student and team member Miriam Di Russo says that Trush, who previously mentored the WSU EcoCAR2 team, continuously helps her understand industry standards and real-world applications of automotive engineering concepts. Public relations major and team communications manager Courtney Zemke says she appreciates Trush’s guidance in interpreting technical language for her stories and media plan.

Trush also travels with the team to competition events around the country and reviews team deliverables before they are submitted to the official channels. An alumnus of Kettering University in Flint, Trush has mentored competition teams for GM for more than 10 years and says he is especially proud to work with the WSU team because it is the only EcoCAR team from Michigan and is physically located near GM’s headquarters — he admits the hometown pride enriches the mentoring relationship. The team and Ku have high praise for Trush as a mentor, calling themselves fortunate to have such a robust relationship.

The funds donated by GM will be matched dollar for dollar by Wayne State University and go toward vehicle components. Ku states, “Everything on our wish list adds up to $150,000, but we hope to raise at least $100,000 from sponsorships like this.”

Serving as a sponsor also has mutual benefits for GM and the WSU team. “As a mentor and manager, I am looking for high-performing students that wish to work in the automotive industry, specifically with GM. EcoCAR students are among the best new hires because they have already proven what they can do, and they hit the ground running,” states Trush. Three members of the WSU EcoCAR2 team — two engineering students and one communications student — were hired as full-time employees with GM upon graduating. Ku states that 20 WSU students have found employment  in the automotive industry as a result of their EcoCAR participation.

When asked how he feels the WSU EcoCAR3 team will fare in the competition, Trush is extremely optimistic due to a combination of factors. “From the team’s hard work and dedication of its members to the university and college support of the team and Jerry Ku’s strong advising, the team is poised to do significantly better than before. This team has grown so much since the first day of the EcoCAR2 competition; I am looking forward to seeing the students in action,” states Trush. The next major EcoCAR3 competition event, the Year One Winter Workshop, will be held in January in Austin, Texas.

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