Engineering student organizations encourage hands-on experience

November 29, 2016

Over the coming months, look for stories that feature some of the many Wayne State initiatives and pioneering individuals committed to automotive and manufacturing innovation. This content is part of WSU's Warriors in Action campaign highlighting how Wayne State is making a difference.

Students passionate about engineering and the automotive industry have plenty of options to get some hands-on garage experience at Wayne State. The College of Engineering offers a variety of student organizations, including Warrior Racing and EcoCAR 3, that are open to students of any major at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

The Warrior Racing team designs, manufactures, markets and races an open-wheel style racecar to compete against universities. The team competes in dynamic events that test the vehicle's performance and efficiency, and static events that test the team's marketing, management and engineering skills. They have participated in events at Formula Michigan, Formula West, Formula North and Formula UK. Most recently, the group placed 10th out of 80 teams in the 2016 Formula West competition, making them the highest-ranking team in the state. 

Warrior Racing, founded in 2003 and led by faculty advisor Michelle Grimm, associate professor of biomedical engineering, includes an engineering subteam broken into powertrain and chassis divisions, along with a business subteam — allowing students from all disciplines to contribute. The team has built 10 cars since 2003, and is currently preparing their racecar for the 2017 Formula West competition, which will take place in Lincoln, Nebraska, this June.

“You definitely get out what you put in with Warrior Racing,” said Justin Bekker, Warrior Racing president and a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. “The more time you spend in the garage, the more you learn and the more opportunities you get. It is a lot of work, but the payoff is there.”

WSU’s EcoCAR 3 team, the Hybrid Warriors, is currently competing in the EcoCAR 3 Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition, sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy. The group is one of just 16 North American teams — and the only Michigan team — selected to participate in the prestigious four-year competition, which challenges teams to reduce the impact of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro by converting it to a hybrid electric vehicle. The team attends workshops throughout the year and will compete in the Year Three Final Competition in the spring.

“EcoCAR is really the best experience you’ll have while in school,” said Ali Hussein, a project manager with the team and a junior majoring in mechanical engineering. “You can learn a lot from a book, but having a way to actually apply those lessons like this is a fantastic opportunity.”

The group, led by faculty advisor Jerry Ku, associate professor of mechanical engineering, has been active on campus since 2011. The team placed 10th overall among North American universities at the program’s Year One Final Competition in June 2015. Other accolades from the Year One Final Competition include: Best Baseline Waiver Award, Best Final Technical Report, Spirit of Project Management Award, and the Ron Stence Spirit of the Challenge Award.

“What we’re working on is very, very close to what leading companies are doing,” said Sebastian Briones, a graduate student in the electric-drive vehicle engineering program and the group’s electrical team leader. “The exposure that we gain in designing and developing a vehicle that is based on industry standards is invaluable. We’re learning by doing.”

For additional information about Warrior Racing, EcoCAR 3 or any of the more than 20 student organizations within the College of Engineering, visit their website or contact the Dean of Students Office at