Stanford Students Attend Automotive Restoration Institute at McPherson College

By McPherson College
June 24, 2014

McPherson College proved its world-class education at the annual Automotive Restoration Summer Institute. For the first time, eight Stanford University students attended through a new educational partnership.

One of the Stanford students was Jonathan Goh, who is in his second year pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering.

“McPherson College does a really good job on the art and craft of restoration,” Goh said. “We wanted to bask in the atmosphere of a place where everyone is so enthusiastic about cars.”

McPherson College is the only four-year institution to offer a four-year bachelor’s degree in the craft of automotive restoration. The college’s summer Institute program is an opportunity for professionals and hobbyists who want to learn more about a particular skill or are just curious to learn more about automotive restoration.

Each year, the Institute attracts attendees ranging from high school students to retirees and from across the United States and even the world. This year the Institute attracted 99 students across its three weeks, drawing people from as far away as the four corners of the U.S. - Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington and California among many others.

Amanda Gutierrez, vice president for automotive restoration at McPherson College, said working with Stanford fits into the broader strategic plan of MC’s automotive restoration program. Educational connections are a central goal of the plan, she said. So when she met and spoke with Reilly Brennan, executive director of Stanford’s Revs program, at several automotive events, they saw potential.

The Revs program began at Stanford to help its students appreciate old cars, car culture and new automotive technology. The Stanford students at Institute come from areas of study ranging from design to engineering to neuroscience, as it applies to the brains of drivers.

“We were both excited about the ways that our programs might work together to expand student learning opportunities,” Gutierrez said. “Our summer automotive restoration Institute classes seemed like a natural first step. We each have expertise in different areas. Seeing how those might come together will provide enriching experiences for everyone.”

Gutierrez said the students have been telling her how much they’ve been enjoying the experience and the open attitude of those they encounter in McPherson.

“The REVS program students, coming from California, were able to experience the McPherson quality of life,” she said.

John Subosits, a PhD student in mechanical engineering, took the class in sheet metal along with Goh and Lene Harbott, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience originally from England.

Among the projects Goh and Subosits are working on is an experimental test vehicle that can effectively simulate the experience of driving in poor road conditions and inclement weather better than a computer program. Subosits said that the class would have direct application to their work in areas such as developing their metal welding skills. But the biggest benefit was just a better appreciation for the practical side of engineering and design.

“It’s a little easy to get carried away by theory and forget that what you’re designing actually has to be made,” Subosits said.

David Herman, a sophomore from Boston, Mass., majoring in design at Stanford, was one of the students taking a class in drive train in the second week of Institute. He agreed that a better connection to the practicalities of automotive design were a huge benefit of McPherson College’s Institute program.

“It’s been really great to reach in and get greasy,” he said.

Harbott, on the other hand, doesn’t have much direct connection between learning how to shape sheet metal and her research on the brain waves of drivers and how they change under certain conditions. She said it was a benefit to have the perspective of what goes into creating a car, but mostly she came to Institute because she loves great cars. It reminds her of going to races with her father in England during her youth.

“This opportunity was presented, and I just could not pass it up,” she said. “Any new thing I can learn that’s car-related, I love it.”

Shannon McClintock, a master’s student in mechanical engineering from San Diego, Calif., said she appreciated learning along with students from a diversity of backgrounds and ages for the help, experience and perspective they offered.

“Everyone here is so knowledgeable,” she said. “And willing to talk with you on whatever level you’re at.”