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Ohio State EcoCAR recognized for commitment to diversity and outreach

EcoCAR team with Blazer

In addition to winning first place overall in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge Year One Competition, The Ohio State University EcoCAR team was recognized for their dedication to fostering diversity within the team and through outreach opportunities with the NSF Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering Award.

The student design-and-build team places a strong focus on diverse leadership. This top-down approach encourages unique mentorship opportunities within the team. 

“Many students who make up the leadership team are seniors or graduate students, and this creates opportunities for mentorship for the younger students on the team,” said Jake Berg, communications manager for Ohio State EcoCAR. “This is one of the reasons that the team can recruit and retain new members; the culture of diversity starts at the leadership team and is passed on to younger members, ensuring that everyone feels welcome at meetings.”  

Ohio State EcoCAR, currently made up of students hailing from eight countries, has a unique way of showcasing its diversity at competition. Flag stickers are displayed on the competition vehicle, highlighting the team members’ home countries. This year, flag stickers representing Canada, China, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Turkey and the U.S. will appear on the team’s 2019 Chevrolet Blazer. As the competition progresses, new stickers will be added each year for new team members.  

The College of Engineering’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has played an active role in recruiting a diverse team. Through the ExCELS (Experiential Career Exploration and Leadership Seminar) program, Ohio State EcoCAR holds seminars that educate college sophomore and junior engineering students about the experiences available through EcoCAR and other student projects teams.

“Thanks to this program, our team has earned a reputation for being inclusive and welcoming to individuals of all different identities,” said Berg. “If a student is interested in hands-on, experiential learning within the overall engineering discipline, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will recommend that they join Ohio State EcoCAR.”

EcoCAR team member showing vehicle middle school studentsAn EcoCAR outreach event with middle school studentsThe team works closely with the Society of Women Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Women in Engineering organization, and hopes to partner with the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers and the Minority Engineering Program in the future.

Ohio State EcoCAR also educates local communities about STEM-related topics and the automotive industry. During year one of the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, the team reached more than 200 middle and high school students, educating them about the competition and new vehicle technologies. Some students even experienced the EcoCAR 3 competition firsthand when the team showcased their plug-in hybrid 2016 Chevrolet Camaro.

“It’s hard to think of anything that’s more rewarding than making a positive impact in these communities,” Berg said. “We want to show students and prospective members that anyone can have a profession in the automotive industry.”

by Colleen Herr, Center for Automotive Research