The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


John Miller

Images/The Torchbearer

I had the opportunity to participate in two advanced vehicle technology competitions at my time at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Future Truck and Challenge X). As a senior in the mechanical engineering department, I choose the Future Truck competition as my senior capstone design project and was assigned to be team leader for the hybrid powertrain design and integration team. It was the second year of the three year competition, and we decided to do a clean sheet redesign of the entire vehicle. I remember becoming consumed with excitement for the project because you are become involved in so many different aspects of the project from design and simulation, to fabrication, to component and system development testing, to documentation and presentation of your design.

Every time I see a 2002-3 Ford explorer I can remember almost every bolt, clip, and body panel of that vehicle. I also remember the transformation of our vehicle from the shell we started out with to the final hybrid propelled vehicle that we ended up with when we arrived at the competition, well it was mostly together. I think we finished up in the parking lot of the hotel before we delivered it for tech inspection, haha. I also remember catching some Z's on a creeper on the floor of our automotive lab after a spending about 36 hours working on the truck. Overall, I found a passion for these vehicle programs and became as involved as I could to help develop and promote our team’s efforts through community outreach, this passion rubbed off on my then girlfriend, now wife, Amanda, who joined our team as outreach coordinator and participated in setting up several off campus events, developing web content, and even help us paint the lab floor.

My interest in advance vehicle technology grew throughout my senior year. As we neared the end of year-two of Future Truck, I was given the opportunity to continue my interest into graduate school at Tennessee through the GATE Fellowship (Graduate Automotive Technology Education), a DOE sponsored fellowship. In graduate school, I was one the team leaders for the final year of Future Truck and the first year of Challenge X programs, overseeing the senior design groups. I am proud to have been a part of these programs and continually draw upon the experience I received through participating in the programs. The AVTC programs provided great support and real world exposure to students by garnering generous sponsorships from industry leaders who provided technology products and training that I still use to this day.

I currently work at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas as a research engineer in the engine design and development group. Amanda is now a Geologist and automotive enthusiast.