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Motorsports provide students with opportunity to explore interests

Jackie Karl-DefrainJackie Karl-DeFrainJackie Karl-DeFrain jumped right into engineering and motorsports when she came to Ohio State-despite not having any prior experience.

“I never got to work with my hands growing up,” said Karl-DeFrain. “Working on cars or in the shop wasn't an experience I had as a kid.  Feeling like I was missing out on that experience, I thought, ‘Let’s go do it now.’”

Karl-DeFrain joined the newly created Supermileage team as a freshman and says that she has loved the opportunity to learn and grow through the motorsports program. “When I first became captain, I wasn't even in my major yet and felt that I didn't have the technical background necessary,” she said. “That experience forced me to reach out to faculty and staff to take advantage of Ohio State's resources as well as to think critically about how to apply what I learned in the classroom as I progressed through my courses.”

After serving as the team captain, Karl-DeFrain moved to a more technical position on the team as engine lead. “This has given others the opportunity to lead the team and allowed me to focus on more research intensive topics in preparation for graduate school,” she said.

Jackie and supermileageKarl-DeFrain and her teammates work on the Supermileage vehicle

This fall she will take on another new role as a member of Ohio State’s EcoCAR team. Karl-DeFrain was recently accepted into the BSMS program and after researching different projects decided that EcoCAR would provide her with the best experience as she looked ahead to transfer to industry after she completed her education. She will be helping the systems modeling and simulation team on the new Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC12).  “I am most excited to gain more exposure to controls and simulation spaces,” she says.

When it comes to women in the engineering field, Karl-DeFrain feels that while more women are entering many engineering fields, their presence is lagging in automotive engineering. However, she feels that encouraging women to join organizations such as motorsports teams can change that. 

“When people don't feel represented in a space, it can definitely feel uninviting.  I think it's important to encourage people that motorsports is a learning experience and that most people start off with little exposure to engineering projects and the transportation industry before college,” says Karl-DeFrain.

“I love the outreach that CAR is doing with younger students, particularly girls,” said Karl-DeFrain. “I think it's important that they feel welcome in engineering and the automotive industry if that is what they want to pursue.  Destigmatizing math, science, and engineering from a young age is an important place to start!”

Written by Colleen Herr, CAR Marketing and Communications Specialist