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Driving success: Two engineering programs to benefit from donation by local company

March 26, 2015 - By Kim Delker

Thanks to the generosity of a local donor, two programs in the University of New Mexico School of Engineering will be better equipped to meet the needs of their students.

Marc Powell, owner of Albuquerque-based transportation company ReCARnation, is donating the use of two vehicles that will benefit two initiatives in the school: the Lobo MotorSports Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) team and outreach and research efforts led by the Center for Water and the Environment.

The gift agreement specifies that each entity will receive vehicle rentals at no charge on an as-needed basis for five years. The FSAE team will receive use of an extended-cab pickup truck to be used when they have competitions, practice drive days, and other uses. The Center for Water and the Environment will be able to use the pickup truck to conduct field research and tow a trailer that is being built to do K-12 education and outreach. The trailer-mounted demonstration unit will be called the Water Activity Vehicle and Experience (WAVE) vehicle, which will allow students to understand and experience water-related research in a hands-on way.

Powell said his generosity was inspired by a deep commitment to improving the educational opportunities for students in New Mexico, which in turn serves to bolster the community. In 2013, Powell donated more than 50 percent of ReCARnation's profits to individuals and organizations in need.

"I have a focus on education and, in particular, engineering education," Powell said. "These two programs stood out for me. The importance of water in New Mexico can't be understated, and it's important to support research in this area. And I was completely blown away by the FSAE program and the way it integrates engineering and the real-world nature of building something as a team. These programs provide   a great way for New Mexico to shine."

The LOBOMotorSports Formula SAE program was started in 1998 by John Russell, Halliburton Professor of Mechanical Engineering. It has evolved into a three-semester program in which students take three courses worth 10 credit hours: Racecar Design and Dynamics, Racecar Build Lab, and Racecar Test Lab. The culmination of the program is an opportunity to compete against the best schools in the world.

In 2014, the program was ranked fifth-best in the United States and 17th-best in the world, according to rankings issued by the Formula Student Combustion World Rankings, compiled by Formula Student Germany, which ranked 507 teams from around the globe. In an international Formula SAE competition in June 2014 in Lincoln, Neb., the team placed 11th overall out of 80 international entries.

The Center for Water and the Environment is led by Kerry Howe, associate professor of civil engineering. The center consolidates and maximizes the water- and environmental-related research at the university. The center is studying a variety of challenges related to water, including the effects of wildfires and climate change on water availability; advanced water and wastewater treatment to desalinate brackish ground water, recycle treated wastewater, and protect the environment; water for energy development and resource recovery; and water-quality issues.

In 2014, the center received a 5-year, $5 million Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) award from the National Science Foundation. K-12 community outreach, such as the development of the WAVE vehicle, is a key part of the grant.

Powell is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and received a law degree from Harvard Law School and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard School of Government, where he was a Kennedy Scholar. After spending more than 25 years in financial management, he entered the automobile industry in 2009 and later founded ReCARnation. The company offers reconditioned vehicles of all makes and models for purchase or rent. It was named the 2014 National Quality Dealer of the Year by the Independent Auto Dealer’s Association, the only New Mexico dealer to be honored in the award
s 39-year history.