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Marcom in [Insert any Industry]: Data Student Proves Value of Marcom in National EcoCAR Engineering Competition

WVU ECOCar communications manager Ryan Alexander

The WVU EcoCAR team recently won 3rd place Overall, 1st place for Best Communications Presentation, 1st place Overall Communications Program, 1st place for Best Drive Cycle, and 1st place for Collaboration for Year 3 of the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge (EMC). EMC is a multi-year Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTCs) that is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory, and General Motors. It challenges 11 universities across North America to transform a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer into an energy efficient, hybrid-electric vehicle with autonomous capabilities through adaptive cruise control features.

Since the inception of AVTCs in 1988, West Virginia University has participated in 9 out of the 12 competitions. The competition provides valuable hands-on experience for students to learn in-depth about the automotive industry through engineering, business, and communications fields.

Ryan Alexander

I’m the current Communications Manager for the team, which encompasses a variety of roles. I work on all communication related deliverables for the competition as a well as managing social media accounts, coordinating outreach events, and any design elements the team may need. Working for this team has allowed me to push myself and grow as a communicator.

The toughest challenge I had to face when I joined the team was onboarding and learning about the program in-depth. These competitions are technology driven and with that comes vast amounts of information. My role as the communications manager is to process that information, create human interest stories and make it digestible and interesting for our audiences. The first few months were difficult because I was still learning about every aspect of the vehicle architecture and competition.

WVU ECOCar Staff

As the year progressed, I was able to focus more on social media engagement through photo and video content. In November, our team ran a successful social media campaign centered around promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) across the University. Our STEAM Week campaign began in Year 2 under the former communications manager, Haleigh Fields, and we were able to build off of that success. During this time, we also had to work on competition deliverables that were centered around youth outreach videos, and technical blogs.

The spring semester was a challenging but rewarding time. The team asked me to design the vinyl wrap that would go on our vehicle. I’ve never worked on a large project like this before, but the team trusted me and my creative vision to bring a quality design that would stand out during the final competition. We took inspiration from the WVU Basketball Court and included the Appalachian Mountains that wrap around the vehicle. It was an ambitious goal, but the end result was worth the hard work.

WVU ECOCar students

During this same time, the communication managers for all teams were tasked with securing meetings with U.S. Senators and Representatives to talk about the benefits of AVTCs. This would count toward our final presentation for Year 3 of competition. Our team was fortunate enough to meet with three different offices: U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, U.S. Senator Shelly Moore Capito, and U.S. Representative David McKinley. I’ve had prior experience in undergrad interning for the West Virginia Legislature, so it was great being able to work with federal officials and discuss policies again.

WVU ECOCar

What has been most valuable from my experiences with EcoCAR is understanding that every industry and organization needs great communicators to tell their stories. Being able to immerse yourself into an unfamiliar industry to effectively tell an organization’s story is what makes great communicators stand out. My course work through the Data Marketing Communications master’s program and experience with the team has helped me to grow as a communicator that will be able to effectively tell stories in any industry in my career.


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