Tag Archives: Jon Ross

Parkland Auto Takes on Vegas at SEMA Show

Parkland College Automotive students got to travel earlier this month to Las Vegas, Nevada, where they participated in the student education program at the world-renowned Specialty Equipment Market Association’s (SEMA) Show.

SEMA Show at Las Vegas Convention Center
SEMA Show at Las Vegas Convention Center

Six students and two faculty from Parkland’s Automotive Technology program participated in the five-day, celebrity-filled event. Student sessions took place Nov. 2 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, with a special lunch session for faculty members Nov. 3.

While there were not any technical hands-on activities, students were immersed in the skills required for professional interaction with companies trying to market their parts and services. The highlight for most any instructor is to be able to see students using what they have been exposed to and learned in the classroom in real life.

Parkland students at the SEMA Show (l. to r.): Brad Nelson, AJ Ross, Jeff Havener, Dan Goode, Thomas McClellan, and Jon Snelling
Parkland students at the SEMA Show (l. to r.): Brad Nelson, AJ Ross, Jeff Havener, Dan Goode, Thomas McClellan, and Jon Snelling

At first, students seemed overwhelmed by the experience! One student had never flown before and several students had never seen the Rocky Mountains. Only one had seen the lights of Las Vegas before. We exposed them to more than one million square feet of automotive products and services!

By the end of each day, however, it was amazing to listen to what our students were learning about the companies. Each of them provided examples of how they interacted with different companies and how they were able to adapt their approach and strategy in each experience based on what they were learning back home. As I walked the show floor looking for my own educational experience, several vendors recognized our Parkland Motorsport shirts and would say, “Your students were by here earlier—very impressive.” This is just another example of interaction you cannot get in the classroom.

Celebrities.  After current SEMA president Doug Evans addressed the more than 500 students in attendance Monday, TV personality, metal fabricator, and painter Jessi Combs also spoke. Jessi talked about how her passion for the industry has led to so many different and amazing experiences. She was also a part of the “Gear Up Girl’ event held later that day targeted specifically to women in the automotive industry. Later, there was Q&A with Doug and Jessi about SEMA and careers in the aftermarket industry. During the Tuesday luncheon, Doug addressed the faculty group along with Matt Crawford, author of the best-selling book Shop Class as Soul Craft.  About 100 school faculty and administrators were present.

Our students’ comments about SEMA:
“I had no idea there were so many different companies selling parts.”
“It’s so cool that these companies are interested in us even though we are just automotive students.” 

“I’m pretty sure I would have a job with this company if I moved to Texas.”
“I am having so much fun, I feel like I must be doing something wrong!”
“I can’t believe there were companies that knew about our drag car and training program.” 
“They said they remembered being at our school on the [Hot Rod Magazine] Power Tour stop.” 
“We get to come back next year, right?”

While our focus from this experience was on developing career paths for motorsport students, the option to participate was open to any students who could pay their portion of the trip (airfare, meals and boarding), which came to about $400. Plus, students had to be in good academic standing so they could miss other classes. Most had to take off work to participate over the five days.

…. And yes, we plan to go again in the future.

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Inside the classroom: Fuel and Emissions

IMG_5130previous blog entry about the Volkswagen emissions controversy tied in with some of the elements we teach in class, so I thought I’d provide a glance for automotive enthusiasts about some of our classroom activities. 

Yesterday in our Fuel and Emissions class (AFD 231), instructor Adam Karch worked with students to understand how onboard emission monitors are actually completed on a running and driving vehicle. Students used a chassis dynamometer, an exhaust gas analyzer, and scan tool to monitor when and how the vehicle’s emission system checked each of the required emission monitoring systems.

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The screen above shows the emission monitors that are being checked on a scan tool that is communicating with the vehicle’s onboard computer. The vehicle must be driven under different conditions that are programmed into the vehicle computer. The student has to drive the vehicle under different loaded conditions to get the vehicle’s onboard computer to check each of the required emission systems. The dynamometer displays a colored line on its display screen that is based on a program in the dynamometer that follows the proper drive cycle for emission testing.

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The above image shows the line that must be followed on the dynamometer screen. The student increases or decreases vehicle speed and load to follow the requirements of the test. The drive cycle test is very specific in vehicle speed and load conditions. It often takes multiple attempts to drive a vehicle on public roads to get a vehicle to complete all the required tests. Slowing down to avoid traffic or obey posted speed limits will interrupt the test. It is much safer and easier to complete a drive cycle on the chassis dynamometer.

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The chassis dynamometer also allows the instructor to be with the student in the learning environment to answer questions while the test is being competed. The student can then focus on learning and properly complete the test rather than traffic and general driving.

This learning activity also helps reinforce the importance of test-driving a customer’s car after a repair attempt has been made. If a technician determines an EGR valve has failed and replaces the valve, but does not test drive the vehicle under the correct conditions, the technician really does not know if the repair attempt has fixed the customer’s complaint. Driving the vehicle under the conditions that allow the onboard computer to complete a self-check is the only way to know definitively that the vehicle has been repaired.

This is only one example of many tests that your vehicle is continuously attempting to complete. Other tests might require the vehicle to sit unoperated for several hours or to be under a specific load and speed for several minutes.        

If you are interested in checking out our automotive technology programs or scheduling a tour of our facility, please email est@parkland.edu or call 217/351-2481. IMG_5132 IMG_5133

Emissions insights from Parkland’s automotive program

With car manufacturers and emissions taking the headlines this past week, I asked Parkland Automotive Program Director Jon Ross a few questions related to emissions.

Q: How are emissions created in cars?

A: Emissions are the by-products of combustion from the internal combustion engine, which usually operate on carbon based fuels like gasoline and diesel. Emissions are also created by gasoline evaporation.

Q: Where/how are emissions tested?

A: In central Illinois we do not have government required emission testing, however, if the “Service Engine Soon” light is on in your car or truck, your emission control systems “thinks” it is producing more emission than are allowed by law for the model year of your vehicle.  Since 1996 light duty cars and trucks have been required to report/record the operating status of emission monitoring systems–things like your catalytic converter or oxygen sensors. If these monitors detect an error, the service light will be turned on. These errors are based on numerical values in computer code–basically a bunch of “if ___then ___” sequences.

Q: So what are the car companies in question alleged to have done to the cars in more technical terms?

A: Vehicles are allowed to produce a certain amount of emissions based on federal law. Then the vehicle computer system must monitor the emission control system for the life of the vehicle. The asuumption is – if the vehicle monitoring systems are ok – then the vehicle must still be in compliance with the legal amount of emissions allowed.  When and how these monitors run is all based on computer code. From the reports I’ve seen, it appears that the details on when (run time, engine tempreature, rpm etc. )  the emissions monitors should run is in question.

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Q: Do Parkland students learn about emissions systems?

We study the required emission components of gasoline engines. These emission systems impact how a vehicle performs. Poor performance could be related to an emission system malfunction.  Emission components or control systems basically fall into three groups – evaporative emissions (stored fuel evaporation), fuel adaptation (changes to fuel delivery while running), and catalytic converters (after combustion treatment). There are many specific emission componets, but they will always have something to do with the emmissions created by either storing fuel or burning it.

Q: To what diagnostics systems and facilities do Parkland automotive students have access?

A: The automotive lab in our Parkhill Applied Technology Center contains 28,000 square feet of workspace designed to reflect the workflow of a modern dealership. In addition to work benches, tools and equipment from the industry’s to vendors, we have 15 lift work stations  (three fitted with Hunter’s HawkEye® alignment systems); flat work stations with room for 10 additional cars; Chassis and Engine Dynos for engine testing and tuning training–the only educational dynos in a 100-mile radius of Champaign–Mustang DM110SE Chassis Dynamometer & Stuska Track Master Water Brake Dynamometer.

Q: The Parkland Motorsports program is quite unique for automotive training. What is it?

A:The Parkland Motorsports program was started to enhance learning, develop additional skills, and provide networking opportunities for students in the Parkland College automotive program. The program offers a unique oppurtunity for students to learn beyond the classroom and take pride in their program and school. Right now, for example, students are preparing for the Champaign County Sports Car Club autocross race on Sunday in Rantoul. Several student drivers will be competing with Parkland’s Civic and Mustang.

 

 

Fast, Furious & Fantastic

The Fast & Furious movie franchise may have the world cruising to movie theaters, but locally, car buffs journey to Parkland College  this time every year for the Parkland Motorsports Car Show.

The car show, now in its 16th year, has grown not only in participation, but also in scope, thanks to the hard work and passion of our MotorSports faculty and students.  Previously a one-day event, the car show expanded to two days in 2014 and in 2015 encompasses three days:

Saturday, May 2nd — CAR SHOW

  • People interested in showing their cars may register at the show for $15 (10:30 am–noon). The show and judging takes place from noon–3 pm and is free for the general public to come out to campus and look at the cars as well as the Parkhill Applied Technology Center facility.
  • Autocross is run by the Champaign County Sports Car Club and provides fun spectating for visitors. Watching the cars zip through the traffic-cone course is a highlight for my kids.
  • Swap Meet — W2 parking lot
  • RC Car Fest Demonstration — Another fun event for kids of all ages.

Sunday, May 3rd — More autocross in the parking lots and dynomometer demonstrations in the Parkhill Applied Technology Center.

Monday, May 4th, NEW! Automotive Career Showcase with Hot Rod Magazine — This event is brand new and intended to give students and others a forum to connect with our local automotive industry partners. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the skills employers need and see Parkland’s facilities.  In addition to employers, Troy Gudgel will be sharing custom car fabrication techniques and Hall Brothers Racing will have a monster truck on display.

PLUS! Jeff Dahlin, publisher of Hot Rod Magazine, will be on hand to make an announcement about the popular Hot Rod Power Tour.

With this huge weekend of events, I asked Automotive Program Director Jon Ross a few questions:

Q: What do you hope the Car Show weekend shows the community?

A: I hope people come to campus and notice a few things:

  • The diversity of the careers available in the automotive industry
  • Learning opportunities that go beyond the classroom.
  • The training options Parkland College offers for these careers (Dual credit/ECCA for high school students, one-class completions, certificates, degree programs, transfer articulation for SIUC Automotive program)
  • The facility used for training
  • The equipment that students are trained to use
  • The funding needed to support student activities that go beyond the classroom
  • The development of the non-technical skills needed by employers in the automotive industry.

Q: What is the biggest surprise for first-time visitors when they attend the Car Show?

A:  I think most people are surprised by the number of participants in our event and the diversity of cars. Our event is the largest in the area. It is also generally the first of season. I am amazed each year that we have community members who have never been on campus to see our facility and programs. It is not uncommon to have very unique and rare vehicles displayed at our show right next to cars that are driven daily.

Q: Are Parkland students involved with the Car Show?

A: Students play an active role in preparing for the show. They are eager to serve our guests and to show off our program, facility, and the projects they have worked on. Students help recruit partners for the show, collect door prizes, and staff the event. Words cannot describe the amount students learn when they’re put in active roles. When all the work is done, they get to play… er, drive the cars they have worked so hard to prepare for our racing program.

Q: There is a lot going on outside. What will be happening inside the Parkhill Applied Technology Center?

A: The automotive lab will serve as registration headquarters. The building will be open and people can look around to see all of the cool things we get to work with every day. On Sunday, it will also be open and we’ll focus on demonstrating our engine and chassis dynamometers.

Q: Monday’s Automotive Career Showcase is new. What is your goal with that event?

A: Parkland has hosted career and job fairs many times, but this is the first time we are hosting a career fair specific to the careers and businesses in the automotive industry. We are excited about the companies that will be present and the connections that we can facilitate for the students and community. The industry is much bigger than most people realize.