Monday, April 30, 2012

The most successful motorsports engineers have theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience. Lee College of Engineering’s Luke Woroniecki provides students with aspects of both.

As motorsports instructional and research laboratory manager for the Motorsports and Automotive Research Center, Woroniecki gives many undergraduates their initial exposure to motorsports each semester as instructor for MEGR 2299 “Motorsports Engineering Clinic.”

This introductory course is for students who are brand new to motorsports, said Woroniecki. “They come with varying degrees of experience, but I introduce them to all the topics that they will see throughout the remainder of their engineering and academic careers. It’s very rewarding because there are people who don’t really know the nuts and bolts of mechanics, how to weld or which welding process to use or how to manufacture a specific part they need. They intend to become design engineers in racing, so our goal is to give them a better understanding of the complexities involved in the design of parts that will achieve the desired outcome.”

The Kulwicki Lab provides the venue for students to gain practical experience, which involves another aspect of Woroniecki’s job. He manages the building similar to a shop foreman, and as such, he oversees safety and regulatory compliance, maintains the equipment, orders supplies and teaches and guides students in the use of the machines.

In addition to his instructional and managerial duties, Woroniecki serves as the manufacturing engineer for the University’s SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) teams. Students conceive, design and construct a Formula-style or Baja race car that they will enter in engineering and automotive competitions annually. This year, Woroniecki is focused on the Baja team, which is building an off-road race car.  

“I meet with the team weekly, and we go over their progress and deadlines. We look at any stumbling blocks ahead and then assign projects and tasks,” stated Woroniecki. “We started this past August to build our car that will compete in June. This year, the competition is in Wisconsin, and we’ll be competing against entries from about 100 other colleges and universities.”

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Woroniecki moved to Charlotte in 2006. He joined the University on a part-time basis; his position became full-time in 2007. Growing up, he was interested in mechanics and worked in an engine shop. A certified welder and machinist, Woroniecki graduated from Alfred State College.

“I grew up being advised and mentored by masters of their trades. Not everyone has that opportunity, so I have the chance to take students from being novices and guide them to an entry-level point. The challenge is to teach someone to do something they’ve never done before with the reward of seeing them actually accomplish what they set out to do,” Woroniecki stated.

Away from the Kulwicki Lab, Woroniecki is still involved in motorsports through what he calls Fellowship Sunday. He and his wife, Michelle, invite students to church, and afterward, they spend the afternoon working on or riding dirt bikes.