Plugging in to new auto technology

Transitioning from a fossil fuel-based auto industry to one that will rely on electricity will require a major retooling of our educational programs. S&T is already plugged in to that need for change.

Fueled by $5 million in federal stimulus funding, Mehdi Ferdowsi and Andrew Meintz, EE’07, are developing new courses to prepare future engineers for the era of plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles. Ferdowsi, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Meintz, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, have created a new undergraduate minor in advanced automotive technology.
Meintz taught the inaugural course last January. Seventeen students enrolled, even though the course was not widely advertised. “They obviously see this as a new field that is going to grow and ultimately become a new career path,” says Ferdowsi.
Ferdowsi, an expert in power electronics, designed half a dozen new courses, all offered last fall and open to students in electrical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering and engineering management. The courses focus on the different fuel, powertrain and energy storage systems electric and hybrid vehicles require.
An initiative as ambitious as converting the auto industry from gasoline to electricity requires far-reaching efforts. So S&T is also integrating coursework into existing classes and developing graduate certificate programs to help practicing engineers move into the emerging field of plug-in technology. Ferdowsi and his colleagues are working with the University of Central Missouri and Linn State Technical College to provide additional work force training. Missouri S&T is also working with the St. Louis Science Center to help educate the public about the importance of electric vehicles.

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