From Terps Racing to Ford Motor Company
It wasn’t long ago that alumnus Austin Kendall (’17, mechanical engineering) was heading up the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Terps Racing Program, helping to bolster a team in transition and spearheading fundraising efforts to get the team a new truck for competition travel.
Fast forward to 2020, and Kendall is not only continuing to pursue his passion for automotive engineering as a Chassis Controls Engineer at Ford Motor Company working on the latest iteration of its most iconic sports utility vehicle (SUV), the Bronco, but he is also continuing that philanthropic spirit by giving back with a generous five-year pledge to the Dr. David C. Holloway SAE Terps Racing Fund.
“Terps Racing doubled the amount [of education] that I got out of the University of Maryland during my time there,” said Austin. “Between the leadership experiences, the project experience, getting to work on cars, getting to drive cars, and then ending up at Ford, it really paid dividends for me, so I think it's awesome that [my wife and I] are in a position where we can give back.”
Kendall—who was also the 2017 recipient of the Ford Alan Mulally Leadership in Engineering Scholarship—went to Ford straight out of UMD. There he spent the next two years in Ford’s rotational program for new hires, working with various teams and product lines within the company.
During that time, Kendall found himself really putting his Terps Racing skills to the test, especially when it was time to take a turn with a launch rotation—one of the last steps before a vehicle moves into mass production and any remaining issues are hammered out.
“Every day was a new adventure and every day can be very stressful, and you have to have the ability to roll with the punches, deal with delays and deadlines and constantly work at a very high velocity under stress with everyone involved,” said Kendall. “My time in Terps Racing undoubtedly translated to a really successful rotation for me, and being highly rated in my working cohort. I think this is in large part due to the skills and benefits that took place in the leadership, taking on a project, and understanding how big and wide and vast the engineering problem to really be. All of that directly translated to what I learned.”
Kendall is currently supporting the 2020 Ford Bronco program’s new Trail Control System—a cruise control for off-road conditions. Recently, his work took him to Utah, where he had the opportunity to test out the vehicle’s new feature in the four-wheeling capital of Moab.
“That was just a culmination of all the excitement that I had about being in the auto industry, about working for one of the most well-known auto brands in the world, and then getting to take a product out there and just watch people get so excited about,” said Kendall.
He described people in Moab taking photos and being really excited to see the vehicle. “I mean, the excitement has just been so palpable, and seeing that excitement from the customer about something I am physically working on and have a part in, that is extremely satisfying.”
Kendall also continues to keep in touch with Terps Racing, offers his expertise when asked and participating in mock competitions to review proposals. “When I was in Terps Racing, we didn’t have many connections with any automotive alumni, and now we have people at companies like Ford and Tesla, so there’s experience out there now that can help shed light on ways to think about designing a car.”
Looking ahead to his future at Ford, Kendall will be completing his MBA this spring from the University of Michigan.
“While I could have pursued a master’s in engineering management, or a technical degree, almost all of our upper management, whether they are chief engineers, directors or CEOs, a lot of them have engineering and an MBA,” explained Kendall. “The MBA sets you apart and says this person can make also make business decisions as opposed to this person only knows how to make engineering products.”
In the meantime, Kendall will keep pursuing the projects that excite both him and the customers, especially when it involves a little off-road driving in Utah. “I would say that those moments, they’re going to stick with me forever. I get to live this part of my dream out there doing this and working for this, and that’s been the most rewarding part.”
November 19, 2020