As the Virginia Tech Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team recently repeated a second-place performance at the EcoCAR 3 Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC), its communication manager, Sara Lepley, earned her own accolades. Lepley, who graduated last month with a double major in public relations in the Department of Communication and creative writing in the Department of English, won Most Creative Outreach Event and Best Outreach Presentation.

The AVTC, a four-year competition sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy, is North America’s premier collegiate automotive engineering competition. It features 16 universities using a stock 2016 Chevrolet Camaro to integrate hybrid-electric designs in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of the vehicle while retaining the muscle and performance of the iconic car brand. This year’s competition — the second year in this competition cycle — took place at the General Motors Desert Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona, and San Diego, California.

The competition evaluates teams on a range of details, including technical, safety, design, communications, marketing, leadership, and project management. While most of the team is made up of mechanical engineers, there are also engineers from other disciplines, most notably electrical and computer engineering, and some from outside engineering, such as communications and public relations.

“The competition is about a lot more than just the work on the mechanical aspects,” said Doug Nelson, professor of mechanical engineering and faculty advisor of the team for the past 22 years. “It’s not just the car — it’s about engineering and student development; doing and documenting all the engineering reports, the presentations, the communications and marketing.”

Of all the entries, only Virginia Tech committed to an eight-cylinder engine, using as its appropriate tagline in this election year, “Make EcoCAR V-8 Again.”

“This is all about hands-on learning,” Lepley said in an interview with WTVR in Richmond, Virginia. “To be able to be the ones actually designing the motor was huge for our students — a great learning lesson.”

Adapted from an article written by Rosaire Bushey