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Alums turn academic experience into real world careers

When you drive down Rt. 33 in East Liberty, Ohio, you might not be aware that you are passing the Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC), the most comprehensive vehicle testing facility and proving grounds in the United States.

TRC recently opened its SmartCenter, dedicated to testing technology for automated and connected vehicles. It is comprised of 540 acres (roughly 2/3 the size of Central Park), a 10,000 sq. ft. control center and a 14 person team of researchers, technicians, project managers and engineers. Eight of those team members are Ohio State alumni. 

The TRC - Ohio State connection dates back to 1979 when The Ohio State University assumed management of TRC. Ever since, the two have worked together to provide research and testing services to the automotive industry.

alumni at TRCCollege of Engineering alumni (from left) Tim Seitz and Mohit Mandokhot in the SMARTCenter control center.“The overall goal of the SMARTCenter is to help researchers and technologists build their devices with technology in house before they take it out on public roads,” said Tim Seitz, a senior research and development engineer at the SMARTCenter and two-time Ohio State College of Engineering alum. “TRC and Ohio State are constantly collaborating on projects, grants and research proposals including the ARPA-E NEXTCAR project. As an alum, I’m fortunate to have connections at Ohio State that can help facilitate these projects and continue the TRC - Ohio State relationship.”

The SMARTCenter is set up for different types of testing to accommodate the customer’s needs. There is the possibility to recreate a real world scenario that has already happened but unique scenarios can also be designed to see how a vehicle reacts. This differentiates TRC from others who are in the vehicle testing space.

“The kind of industry projects I worked on as a student at the Center for Automotive Research gave me an understanding of what the industry needs in this line of research and how to conduct it in a professional setting,” said Mohit Mandokhot, a research and development engineer at TRC and alum of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “Respecting the confidentially, time, budget and goals of what the industry wants has been a good foundation to help me transition into this role.”

Neither Seitz nor Mandokhot interacted with TRC much as students, but were excited to learn about the facility and its Ohio State connection late in their academic careers.

“Having the opportunity to be involved in this line of work at TRC is basically my dream job,” said Seitz.