For over 17 years, Mechanical Engineering grad Shane Elwart (’98) worked with the Ford Motor Company—a job that provided him 93 issued patents, 98 filed patent applications, and more than 250 invention disclosures. But two years ago, Shane left Ford to pioneer in autonomous technology with American HAVAL Motor Technology, LLC (AHMT), a start-up automotive company. With most automakers—and some technology giants—racing toward building an autonomous vehicle, Shane is on the road to the future. “From my earliest memories I wanted to be an inventor,” he said.
Shane trusted Christ as his Savior at a young age and has prayed for God’s leading in his life ever since. As a young man, he struggled with knowing what the Lord wanted for his life and had even applied for the United States Air Force Academy, but he didn’t feel at peace with the application. It wasn’t until he received a PCC catalog that he felt God’s leading and, in 1993, pursued a Mechanical Engineering degree at the College. “As soon as I prayed about it, I knew it was what the Lord wanted, and I agreed, had great peace, and never once have I regretted the decision to attend PCC,” he said.
PCC proved to be more than just a time to grow academically. Over his time as a student, God tugged at his heart during church and chapel messages. “I remember a particular message from Johnny Pope titled ‘Whose Parachute Are You Packing?’—a story about a POW who landed safely because someone packed his chute,” Shane recalled. “You never know the impact you have on others’ lives. I still, more than 20 years later, remember that message and want to be the kind of person whose life affects others for God’s glory.”
In 1996, between his sophomore and junior years in college, Shane got his professional start at Duckworth & Associates, an engineering firm in Plymouth, Michigan. While there, he developed an automated drafting routine and designed air seal systems, washer and paint oven systems, cooling tunnels, and air supply houses from OEM engineering specifications. Shane also developed integrated engineering calculation and design programs to streamline the reproducibility of engineering designs. “I continued to work for them during my breaks and, when I left home for my senior year at PCC, I had an offer to come back full time after graduation,” Shane said.
Shane worked at Duckworth & Associates for an additional year before his interests changed and he began looking for additional challenges. In 2000, Shane was offered a job at General Motors to develop automated spring design programs. After only three months, he had completely automated the job! After an additional three months, Ford Motor Company offered him a job in research and advanced engineering, where he developed control systems for fuel economy and emissions. His ability led to further opportunities within the company. “The Mechanical Engineering program gave me the technical breadth and depth to be able to work in any field of engineering,” he said.
Shane proved himself an innovative engineer at the automotive company. He developed, integrated, and proposed several different improvements that include a NOx estimation model, a total vehicle system optimization method that reduced fuel consumption by 30 percent, an anti-jackknife system for Ford Pro-Trailer Backup Assist, and a by-wire system for Ford’s Autonomous Vehicle Research Platform. Beyond that, he was the project manager over driver assistance features. For his time and accomplishments at Ford, he received the Henry Ford Achievement Award and the Technology Achievement Award for his contributions to the development of Pro-Trailer Backup Assist.
After having worked at Ford for over 17 years, Shane was offered and accepted a leading position at AHTM, a subsidiary of an international automotive company, where his experience has been a great asset to the new company. As the Deputy Chief Engineer of Autonomous Driving Systems at AHMT, he leads management teams and mentors engineers. “Each step of the way, the Lord has brought just a little more technology, management, and leadership skills needed along the way. It is amazing to see His hand over the past decades and wonder what He has planned for the future,” he said.
Shane built the company’s team from the ground up, putting together an international team with current staff of over fifty managers and engineers, and acting as the global technical lead for all start-up operations. “Trying to develop a system that replaces a human driver is more than complicated enough, but often this seems simple compared with other challenges,” he said. “My favorite part about working in engineering is finding challenging problems that need to be solved—working with motivated people to create a way to solve the problem.”
Although each step through his career has carried him forward, Shane can only see God’s perfect plan by looking back on his life. “I am so thankful for the opportunity to have attended PCC,” he said. “The engineering program equipped me with all of the necessary technical training needed to start out and be successful in the engineering field. It is by all means the bootstrap for the career that God has given me.”