Kettering University student turns first co-op term into award-winning experience

During the first term of his co-op, Trevor Bennett ‘19 was part of a team from Faurecia that ws highly recognized for the Faurecia Emissions Control Technologies Adaptive Valve™. 

As a freshman, one Kettering University student not only stood out in the eyes of his employer, but also helped his co-op company earn a prestigious Automotive News PACE Award. 

During the first term of his co-op, Trevor Bennett ‘19 was part of a team from Faurecia that was highly recognized for the Faurecia Emissions Control Technologies Adaptive Valve™. 

“The significance of the PACE Award is that it’s recognition that we have provided a significant contribution to the automotive industry that gives us a competitive advantage,” said Andy Pontius ‘93, Faurecia Director of Product Design and Development for North America. “Trevor was an integral piece of the team. He was the guy we would send off to gather data and think of creative ways to present the information. For a freshman student he did some really amazing things.”

For more than 20 years, the Automotive News PACE Awards have honored superior innovation, technological advancement and business performance among automotive suppliers. This prestigious award is recognized around the world as the industry benchmark for innovation. 

Bennett, a Business Administration major at Kettering, said being a part of Pontius’ team was a great experience. Before learning the company was a finalist for a PACE Award, he analyzed and reported on automotive trends, helped design several pivotal presentations and aided in the modernization of campus facilities. 

But when they learned the news of being an award finalist, everyone put in the hard work to show the judges what their project was all about. 

FECT’s Adaptive Valve™ is self-adjusting and activated by the flow of exhaust gas, working in tandem with the muffler to control sound emitted from the exhaust pipe. The Adaptive Valve™ plays a critical role in weight reduction, allowing the mufflers to be as much as 30 percent smaller and the exhaust system to be up to 20 percent lighter. In vehicles with cylinder deactivation, the Adaptive Valve cancels low-frequency sounds, which ensures the driver hears no difference when the car switches from eight cylinders to four. 

“It does the job of a large muffler but in a very small space,” said Pontius, who led the team. “We save large amounts of mass with this innovation, compared to the large silencers that would normally be required.” 

Bennett, although at first unsure about pursuing a career in the automotive industry, has gained a new perspective with his time spent at Kettering and Faurecia. 

“I was never one to really appreciate cars, but after this experience, I’m definitely passionate about the automotive industry,” Bennett said. “I used to just see cars as a means of transportation, but now seeing all the work and technology that go into them, I realize there’s so much more.” 

Bennett’s favorite part of his experience so far at Faurecia was being able to work with people with a variety of expertise. 

“To see the whole company not only unite behind but passionately pursue a common goal really impacted me and how I view leadership,” he said, acknowledging the success behind the PACE Award. “Our team spent a couple late nights working until 2 in the morning preparing for the presentation. We thought that if we worked hard and we put in the effort, the results would pay off in the end.” 

The awards ceremony for PACE took place in April and Bennett was eager and excited to attend, noting that he was probably the youngest person at the event. 

“It shows that Kettering has an accelerated program—that a college student can gain real-world, invaluable work experience while going to school.” Bennett said. “It was pretty amazing, especially for my first work term, to be able to do something like that. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity at any other university. 

“I can’t say enough about Faurecia. My boss, Andy Pontius, and the other engineers mentored me every step of the way. I was able to seek advice and draw from the experience of the Faurecia team members, each with different areas of expertise. From day one, when I had a question about what something was or how something worked, someone was always ready to help. I was never made to feel inferior because I was inexperienced.” 

Bennett stood out to Pontius from the first day he met him at Kettering during a career fair on campus. Bennett knew the path he wanted to take in his career and he had a strong vision, Pontius said. 

“He has a clear vision of what he wants to do with life. He wasn’t an engineering major but I wanted to hire him anyways. The Business majors are the guys that have the entrepreneurial vision and they are taught the thinking process to help them turn ideas into profits,” Pontius said. “He was eager to take on any task that I gave him. Every person that came in contact with him commented on how professional and mature he was. They were impressed to hear he was a freshman. I was very proud to tell them he was from Kettering.” 

Pontius’ advice to students is to not “settle” on your career vision. Go after something you really care about and be deliberate in your path. Bring energy and enthusiasm. It will help you stand out. 

Pontius said he was challenged to use all the skillsets Bennett brought to the table. Bennett said he also learned a lot from the experience. 

“You need to realize how different generations think and then be able to act on that knowledge. You learn teamwork and different leading styles and ways of communicating,” Bennett said, adding he chose Faurecia because they were open to different styles of working. “You can follow your vision without having to follow a pre-formed path.”