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OCC GRAD Daniel Davis, General Motors Engineer

Daniel Davis
Daniel Davis, Automotive Engineer


General Motors’ new hybrid Chevy Volt is hitting the streets and an Olney Central College alumnus is among those helping to bring the electric car to American roadways. 

Dan Davis, a 2004 OCC graduate, joined the car manufacturer earlier this year (2011) as a hybrid controls development engineer in Michigan. “I’m analyzing data to determine how likely the vehicle is to need repairs and all the things that can go wrong on the car,” he said. The Volt offers gas- and emissions-free driving for most commutes of less than 40 miles before a gas-powered onboard generator kicks in for extended trips. Davis noted the vehicle has a base cost of around $41,000 and includes an eight-year warranty on the battery.

In November, Davis drove to Olney and brought the vehicle to OCC, giving students in the pre-engineering and automotive programs a chance to see the world’s first electric vehicle with extended range capability.

OCC physics instructor Rob Mason said Davis’ visit provided a unique opportunity for his class.“The students had the chance to look at the cutting edge in automotive technology and observe that OCC graduates are a part of it,” he said. “They were able to ask questions about the vehicle, but more importantly about the day-to-day experiences of an engineer.”

Davis said the car is currently available in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan and Washington, D.C. Nationwide sales are set to begin in the next year. 

In January, the Volt was named 2011 North American Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. In addition, Motor Trend Magazine named the Volt its 2011 Car of the Year.

“I felt the vehicle was deserving. It is the most groundbreaking vehicle in the past few decades,” Davis said. “I’ve only been involved in the project the last few months, but it’s exciting to be part of that.”

Davis chose to pursue a career in automotive engineering after participating in the Formula SAE team as a senior in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The students were charged with building an open-wheeled car similar to those used in Formula I racing. Davis served as the electronics group leader for the project overseeing the car’s wiring and electrical system.“We basically built it from the ground up,” Davis said. 

The team later participated in a competition at Ford’s proving grounds in Romeo, Mich. 
“We were in the running for the top 10 out of 130 teams, but our vehicle’s drive chain broke 1.5 laps away from finishing the 22-lap endurance race. If that hadn’t happened, we definitely would have made the top 10 teams,” he added.

After graduating from the University of Illinois in 2007, Davis joined Lockheed Martin in New York where he spent three years testing prototypes of military trucks. He also analyzed the data which focused on the vehicles’ ride quality, vibration and handling.
“The hybrids are a lot more complicated than the military vehicles I was working on,” Davis said. “The most challenging part of the job has been getting up to speed on all the new technology GM has with electric vehicles. I enjoy the job and really like all the cool technology I’m working with.”

Davis said Mason was instrumental in his success at Illinois.
“The math and physics classes were challenging,” Davis said. “Mr. Mason was my favorite teacher and he helped me a lot. His classes were pretty difficult and good preparation for Illinois.” 
Davis is just one of the many pre-engineering students who have enjoyed success after transferring from OCC. During his visit, Davis shared his experiences with current students.

“The students benefited by speaking with a professional engineer who was no different than them at one time,” Mason said. “It gave them the opportunity to ask about the transition from OCC to U of I, and receive advice on getting the maximum benefit from their experience. They were assured by Dan that they would be more than adequately prepared to succeed once they got to U of I, or any other college that they chose. Dan advised them to immediately get involved in activities to enhance their educational experience, as well as their resume.” 

(Article submitted by Deanna Ratts, Director of Information and Marketing, Olney Central Collge.)

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