EcoCar Competition Drives Student Employment, if Not Innovation

eco car 2

Myles Regan

Teams from 15 universities across North America are vying in EcoCar2, the latest in the Energy Department's series of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions. About 75 percent of the college graduates who have participated in the contests have ended up with jobs in the automotive industry.

Enlarge Image
close eco car 2

Myles Regan

Teams from 15 universities across North America are vying in EcoCar2, the latest in the Energy Department's series of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions. About 75 percent of the college graduates who have participated in the contests have ended up with jobs in the automotive industry.

Four years ago R. Jesse Alley was just another mechanical-engineering student searching for purpose when a friend at Virginia Tech opened up a laptop and changed his life.

It was his sophomore year, and he was watching football on TV in the apartment of Kurt M. Johnson, his roommate's cousin. Mr. Johnson was working on a continentwide competition to design environmentally friendly cars, and during a break from the game, he showed Mr. Alley page upon page of the computer code needed to