STEM Central

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Where Is She Now? Sophomore UT Student Connects to NSF

Where Is She Now? Sophomore UT Student Connects to NSF

What could be more exciting than working with the next generation of automotive engineers? At the University of Tennessee, students are incorporating cutting-edge hybrid electric vehicle technology into their coursework and research projects everyday through the EcoCAR 3 Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition.

Karson Stone ( is a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Last year, she was the first and only freshman to be working with the UT EcoCAR 2 team (read more here). EcoCAR 2 was a capstone senior project design team that focused on Mechanical Engineering concepts for the EcoCAR 2: Plugging in the Future advanced vehicle technology competition (AVTC). This year, she has continued her work with the UT EcoCAR 3 team by helping the team with not only knowledge transfer but also bringing in an engineering approach to the communications and business aspects of the competition as well.

According to, the competition is the latest Department of Energy (DOE) AVTC series. General Motors (GM) will donate a Chevrolet Camaro to 16 North American universities and engineering students from each university will transform it into a hybrid vehicle, without compromising “muscle and performance expected from this iconic American car.” Additionally, at the Visionary sponsorship level, the National Science Foundation (NSF) supports the EcoCAR 3 competition.

The UT EcoCAR 3 team is multi-disciplinary with students hailing from the Colleges of Engineering, Business and Communication & Information. The team is divided into four collaborative teams: Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Project Management and Communication. Stone, although an engineering student, is on both the Project Management and Communications teams. This exposure to all aspects of the program will benefit her and the program as she takes on leadership responsibilities in the project.

Stone is a unique asset to each team; she connects the mindset of the Engineering team to the heart of the Communications team with the cost and the stakeholders in mind given the resources provided by the Project Management team.

“The Karson Model” will revolutionize the UT EcoCAR 3 team. Before Karson joined, the team had always been made up of only senior and graduate students, as it was a senior design capstone course, and this resulted in a large turnover from year to year. By introducing students to the team as freshmen, there could be a lower turnover and a higher knowledge transfer from year to year. The "Karson Model" gives underclassmen engineering students hands-on opportunities for research and engineering design of a hybrid vehicle including modeling, analysis and engineering principles not normally seen before the senior or graduate levels. This early exposure provides a unique platform to link undergraduate engineering course work to real-world engineering problems.

Stone was first connected with the UT EcoCAR 3 through a program called the RISER (Research and Instructional Strategies for Engineering Retention) at the University of Tennessee. This is a unique research program sponsored by the NSF which was designed to partner female honors engineering students with faculty conducting research at the university.

For more information and updates, follow the UT EcoCAR 3 team on Twitter or Instagram: @ecocarutk