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This Woman-Led Collegiate Team Is Building an Eco-Friendly Hybrid Camaro

This Woman-Led Collegiate Team Is Building an Eco-Friendly Hybrid Camaro

by Danica Lo

Earlier this season, General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy teamed up to announce the launch of EcoCAR 3—a competition that pits 16 university teams against one another to rebuild an iconic American car in the spirit of environmental awareness.

This year, the 16 collegiate teams—of engineers, designers, business students, and more—are working on re-creating the Chevrolet Camaro. They're developing innovative ways to reduce the car's greenhouse gas emissions, decrease its energy consumption, reduce criteria tailpipe emissions, and meet specified energy goals, all while keeping the Camaro's performance up to par with consumer demands and expectations.

At Wayne State University in Detroit, the EcoCAR team is woman-led—a relative rarity in university engineering departments and the automotive industry.

A few weeks ago, I chatted with Alyse Ariel Waldhorn, who leads the Wayne State team in the competition. An environmental science major in a previous life (she earned her first degree at Michigan State), Waldhorn is now pursuing a second undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering—and working on the EcoCAR project has helped her pinpoint where she wants her career to lead.

"I want to work somewhere that's innovative, creative, and up-and-coming," she told me. "As far as automotive and the transportation industry in Michigan, it's an ever-growing field. And even though it's not something I would have considered 10 years ago—I'm not like a lot of students on the team who knew they were passionate about cars since they were children—automotive is such a broad industry, and there are so many different facets I could go into."

Switching from environmental science to mechanical engineering wasn't an easy decision for Waldhorn—but it made perfect sense.

"What I like most is that engineering is a lot of problem-solving," she sayd. "I've always liked puzzles—and engineering is like a giant puzzle and you're trying to figure out where the pieces go. Engineers solve problems that are posed every day. It lets me be creative."

As for advice to young women looking for a career path that's analytical, creative, and problem-solving?

"Think about the kind of work you really like doing," Waldhorn says. And don't get discouraged by the overwhelming number of men in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. "Don't think about how it's a male-dominated industry. Don't let that inhibit what you want. Think about what makes you happy and what kind of skills you'll get to use day-to-day."

Photos: Ecocar


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