Electric cars drive Wynn’s career
Miles Wynn has always been a car guy.
The senior mechanical engineering major grew up the son of an auto body mechanic in Albion, Nebraska, and has a 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air that he sheepishly admits to have been working on “before I became a teenager.”
So it comes as little surprise that Wynn has settled on a future in the automotive industry after he graduates in December 2015.
However, it is a touch ironic that it was his research into harnessing the power of the ocean to create an energy source on the land that helped to bring Wynn back to his roots with a fall internship at Tesla Motors, which has created a buzz in the automotive industry by making America’s top line of electric cars.
“I’ve always shot high, and in 2013 I applied for a Tesla internship for kicks because it doesn’t hurt to try. But it dropped off my radar,” Wynn said. “I always wanted to do something with cars, and especially electric cars, but at the same time I’ve been on the fence about my future – do I want to go into renewable energy production with the research that I do or go straight into electric automotive?
“Either way, both of those technologies can help further humanity rather than burning up our resources. I grew up very environmentally oriented, so both paths were open to me.”
That path became more clear when Wynn took the Electric Vehicles class taught by Don Cox, a visiting professor of electrical engineering. Cox, who used to live not far from Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, owns two Tesla vehicles that he lets his students test drive.
Wynn said that class helped to reawaken his love of working on cars.
“I didn’t know whether I wanted to be an electrical engineer or a mechanical engineer. I took Dr. Cox’s class and that got me interested in combining the two fields,” Wynn said.
Wynn accepted a summer 2014 internship at Polaris Industries, where he worked as a system engineer in the small vehicles division. His focus was on suspension and brake systems.
While testing vehicles on a track, Wynn got the call he never expected.
On the other end was a Tesla executive who offered Wynn an internship that would last through the fall semester. After informing his family and his fiancée that he’d be taking one semester longer to graduate, Wynn accepted the offer and headed to California.
“I’m already a five-year student, and now it’s going to be 5½ years from start to finish,” Wynn said. “I thought, you know, I’m only going to get this opportunity once, so I might as well say yes.
“I think Tesla was more impressed with the research and development I did. They have a huge amount of mechanical engineers at Tesla because they make automobiles, first, but it happens to be powered by electrical systems and it helps to have that knowledge.”
Wynn’s work at Tesla gave him experience in a burgeoning field within the American automotive industry – craftsmanship. Essentially, it’s engineers working on all design aspects of the car to improve a consumer’s subconscious impression of a car through sight, touch and smell. It’s something Wynn said European giants like Rolls Royce, Bentley and Mercedes Benz have been doing for decades.
“I had never heard of a Craftsmanship Division before. The job is to essentially make that car to the point where you can’t pass it up,” Wynn said. “If you walk out of the dealership thinking you’re not going to buy it because of the way it was put together or the way it looks, that’s on me.”
After four months as an intern, Wynn knew he wanted his immediate future to be at Tesla. And Tesla wanted Wynn, too.
Before leaving, Wynn said, he worked out a plan with Tesla that will have him working an internship this coming summer and hopes to return as a full-time employee after he finishes his bachelor’s degree at UNL.
With the world’s big carmakers beginning to focus on electric power for their vehicles, Wynn said, the coming years will be an exciting time for young engineers with resumes like his. Wynn said he sees his decision to stay with Tesla as an investment in the company’s future and his own.
“With this internship experience, I could probably work for almost any automaker. The future innovation in the industry will be with electric power,” Wynn said.