MBT – Automotive Engineer

MBT – Automotive Engineer


I’m Peter Whitlock. I’m 26 years
old and I’m an automotive
engineer.
My title at Holden is an
automotive transmission
development engineer.
My role is to look after all
the development and validation
of our automatic transmissions
for all our products.
That includes Commodore
and more recently the Camaro.
I get to tear transmissions
apart, put them back together.
We recourse problems.
Every single component
needs to be validated by myself.
Essentially everything to do
that is a hardware problem
with the automatic transmission
comes under my responsibility.
I work primarily
at the Holden proving ground.
It’s a test facility
down towards Phillip Island,
in a place called Lang Lang,
a very large facility that we
use to test all our vehicles,
and we have a number of test
roads, garages and other
laboratories
to do all the vehicle and
component testing that we need.
I will come to work and start
testing and driving around
circuits
such as, you know, high-speed
loop or our skid pan –
doing a variety of manoeuvres
that are specific
to the automatic transmission.
Every engineer
has a very different role.
My job is really special because
I do get to be involved with the
vehicle,
hands-on and driving
it all the time.
The best part of it is
understanding how the vehicle
behaves,
and directly understanding
the changes that you’re making
are actually improving
the product.
A lot of my tests are actually
driving the vehicle
in extreme condition,
whether it be
cold climate conditions,
or very, very hot conditions.
For all our hot testing,
we get to go to a number of
places all around Australia.
So, we might be testing
in 40 degrees Celsius heat
for eight hours a day,
and this is the other extreme.
It’s a very difficult
engineering challenge
to get the transmission
to work the same
in very cold
and very hot conditions –
both extremes of the engineering
process that we have to validate
to.
Essentially, the desk job
is necessary for me
to analyse the results that we
take from the vehicle tests.
So, it might be fun to go and do
these vehicle tests,
but we actually have to have
an engineering reason to do it,
and that is to take data,
analyse it, make a change if
necessary,
or validate the product and say,
‘Yes, our automatic transmission
works correctly in these
conditions.’
I studied an aerospace
engineering and business
administration
double degree at RMIT.
Throughout my degree, I decided,
as I was studying,
that I really had a passion
for automotive.
I’ve always had as a kid, and
there was a lot more opportunity
in Australia in
the auto industry
for me to do something
that was hands-on, exciting,
and applied for
the Holden graduate program.
The graduate program was ideal
for me because I got a lot of
experience
in a very short period of time,
and it set me up for where I am
now
in my role as an automatic
transmission development
engineer.
I’m studying a part-time Masters
degree in automotive engineering
through the University
of Michigan.
It’s a program that’s offered
through GM to young people like
myself
that want a further education
while working.
The auto industry primarily
takes engineering students
of the disciplines
of aerospace, mechanical,
automotive and even electrical.
There’s a wide variety of roles
in the auto industry,
and not one engineering
discipline is focused just on
this industry.
You can do a wide variety
of engineering courses.
The industry has changed a lot
quite recently as most people
know.
Fuel prices and the problems
that we’ve had with the economy
worldwide.
So there’s a lot of challenges
for engineers right now.
So, whilst people think the auto
industry is probably struggling,
it’s actually a time
for opportunity.
This is the best time
to be in the industry,
because this is where
it’s make or break.
I love my job. It’s top gear,
eat-your-heart-out stuff.
The fact that I can be hands-on
with the vehicle,
involved with lots of people,
work with a diverse team,
work on a number of different
projects all at once,
work on different vehicles –
for example, I worked on a
Camaro and a Commodore at
exactly the same time.
And be working at different
sites, different locations,
going on test trips.
It really can’t get much better
than this, from my perspective,
in engineering, that’s for sure.
I couldn’t think of doing
anything better at this point in
my life.


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