As advisor to the College of Engineering's many automotive competition teams, including the SAE Clean Snowmobile, SAE Baja, Formula SAE, and Hybrid Vehicle teams, Mechanical Engineering Faculty Associate Glenn R. Bower has taught thousands of students not only the hands-on skills of machining and welding, but also the value of leadership and teamwork. Due to his own exceptional leadership and dedication, Bower's students have won nine national titles since 1996, including three consecutive championships in the FutureTruck competition.
Within the limited time frame of the nine-month academic year, Bower guides 150 to 200 students in designing, building and testing vehicles. The year culminates in a series of national competitions where teams present the specifications of their vehicles and drive them in a series of road tests. In preparation, Bower spends countless hours in the garage teaching students at all levels not only the technical aspects of building a vehicle, but also the purpose of each component and its place in the overall configuration. The training students receive is so thorough that those hired by automotive companies after graduation can often skip the industry's usual two-year orientation. In fact, companies have begun recruiting top students directly from his program, says Bower; Polaris, for example, has hired four students from his Baja Car team alone.
Under Bower's mentorship, teams also become tight-knit families in which members learn to trust and help one another, exchange ideas respectfully, make savvy real-world decisions, and remain poised under pressure. One of Bower's proudest moments as an advisor came during the 2004 FutureTruck competition when his students, after careful planning and delegation of tasks, coolly and competently fixed a seemingly insurmountable problem with their vehicle's steering system. After reassembling their truck just 30 minutes before the last day of competition began, they went on to win their third consecutive championship.
Bower holds a BS in mechanical engineering from UW-Platteville and a MS and PhD in mechanical engineering from UW-Madison. In addition to his role as advisor, he teaches courses, including engineering economics and senior design; oversees the college's automotive shop; and conducts research at the Engine Research Center. He was named a National Science Foundation Outstanding Faculty Advisor in 2000 and received the SAE Faculty Advisor Award in 2001.