For fourteen mechanical engineering seniors, a trip to California with an invite from “Late Night” host Jay Leno proved to be a look into the passion of one man as well as a peek into the future of transportation.
“It was a great opportunity for the students, if nothing else, just to see Leno’s garage,” Dr. Martin Morris, one of the supervisors of the trip, said. “His collection isn’t the result of his income but his passion. It’s clear this is something he is passionate about. That’s how you should go through life, chasing your passions.”
Leno’s garage, filled with more than 130 cars and 80 motorcycles is nearly a museum itself, a collection of near antique vehicles as well as cutting edge motorized transportation.
“Seeing Jay’s car collection, workshop and hearing about the history behind every one of his vehicles was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget,” said Nick Descamps, a senior mechanical engineering major. “Since I was a little kid I have known about his collection and always dreamed of getting to see it, but never thought I actually would. I just feel very fortunate to have experienced that.”
Along with seeing Leno’s collections, the students also went to Tesla Motors, a company that is developing electronic cars or EVs, electric vehicles.
“We had a great conversation with a manager at Tesla,” Morris said. “They are setting the standard with the e-car. They’re kind of alone in their class, but they’re trying to share what they’ve learned. They’re working with Toyota now. They’re at the leading edge, which is what we’re all supposed to be doing.”
Tesla’s work is revolutionary by all standards. Their current car, with a price tag of $110,000, features only 20 moving parts in the engine, which allows for the car to require much less maintenance on the part of the owner, along with being electronic.
“You would occasionally have to take it to a dealership, but it really wouldn’t be any different than taking your phone into the store for a flash upgrade,” Steve Brodkin, senior mechanical engineering student, said.
For Martin, these moments of insight into the future as well as seeing where the automotive industry has come from offering a wider perspective on such integral technology.
“Our culture is linked to transportation,” he said. “What is the future going to be like? We got a peek at the Tesla and the Volt. What’s things going to be like in twenty years? Cars today don’t look anything like they did twenty years ago. I mean, I don’t want to say that it was a once in a lifetime but its not very common and I wouldn’t have thought it would have ever happened here, but everyone from the university was very supportive of the trip. They all helped make it happen. Tell me some other university that would do that.”