As Alex Rath ‘17, ‘18 sees the future of the automotive industry evolving, he is diving further into his education at Kettering University as a graduate student and is helping take the lead on a three-year autonomous vehicle competition.
Rath completed his bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering at Kettering in 2017 and now is working toward a master’s in Automotive Systems at the University. As a side project, Rath is on the team for the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) AutoDrive Challenge, an international autonomous vehicle competition. The challenge tasks faculty and students to develop and demonstrate a fully-operational autonomous driving passenger vehicle.
“Working on an autonomous vehicle is something completely different than I’ve done before,” Rath said. “Everybody is talking about moving toward more electrified vehicles and autonomous vehicles. There is a demand for people who know how to work on autonomous vehicles. Pursuing my master’s at Kettering and being on the AutoDrive team has given me a lot of opportunities to work on the cutting edge of something new.”
In Rath’s role with AutoDrive, he has helped get the team organized and set up. They’ve done a lot of work on the mechanical development on the Chevy Bolt EV, working on the sensors, mounting the computer, getting the computer system and software up and running.
The AutoDrive Challenge team has approximately 70 members between A and B sections and graduate students.
“I’m more focused on the controls and some project management. I think a lot of career opportunities even if you’re an engineer consists of a large portion of project management. You have to know how to collaborate with people and work in a team environment and this challenge incorporates all that,” Rath said. “I think the biggest benefit is giving people real world work experience. Not everybody can having a co-op where they are working on autonomous vehicles. With something like this you are working on the big pictures and getting experience in a lot of different areas.”
While at Kettering, Rath also has been involved in the Formula SAE and Clean Snowmobile teams, working on business project management and powertrain. He took that experience and moved to autonomous features and electronics. His time at Kettering has helped him become a more well-rounded engineer.
Rath is from Fenton, Michigan, so he was familiar with Kettering while in high school. But the co-op experience was a big selling point for him. Engineering has been an interest of Rath’s from a young age as his dad would take him to help fix the family car. In high school, he was on a FIRST Robotics team.
“I didn’t want to be one of those students who got a degree in something they weren’t really interested in doing in real life,” he said. “When you are in class you are learning how to do the math on something or how to tell what the strength of a material is. The class can only tell you how to do that theoretically. When you work on projects like SAE Clean Snowmobile, Formula SAE or AutoDrive you are putting that into action with a real world problem. Kettering gave the opportunity for both. It helps you grow as a student and an engineer.”