Hybrid Training in Auto Tech Hands-on with the Latest Technology

The Walla Walla University automotive program has three years to learn as much as they can about a Toyota Camry Hybrid currently in their possession. The prototype car was given to the department on a three-year loan by the Toyota Motor Company.

The deal was made when a strong supporter of WWU put Rob Holm, assistant professor of technology, in touch with Andrew Coetzee, Toyota/Lexus senior vice president. Up to that point, Holm was borrowing a vehicle from Walla Walla Community College for use in his Alternative Fuels and Hybrids labs.

"It was terribly inconvenient," says Holm, "since we had to return it at the end of the day."

Though many vehicles from different manufacturers are donated to technician training programs across the country, WWU is somewhat unique because it is not affiliated with any manufacturer.

"With this vehicle, students will get hands-on experience with premier hybrid drive systems available today and can utilize the other body electronics systems for testing, diagnosis and educational purposes," says Holm. "This means we'll be taking it apart to see how it works, putting it back together so it functions normally and putting ‘bugs' in the vehicle for the students to get practical experience in their diagnostic abilities."

Hybrids are a fast-growing part of the automobile market. Though they have been available for a relatively short time, they have been on the roads long enough to begin needing service and repair.

"Many shops and technicians shy away from hybrids because of the high voltage and extreme computer integration," explains Holm. "Giving our students experience on them will put them in a more leveraged position when they apply for jobs after college."

Part of Holm's graduate work at Purdue University involved updating his curriculum to include hybrid systems. As a result, Holm wrote new coursework for some of his classes, and the addition of the Toyota Hybrid gives him the opportunity to implement his recent hybrid training.

"I'm delighted to give my students the opportunity to learn on a modern hybrid car with current technology," says Holm. "It is in large part due to the support of individuals and companies such as these that our graduates are so well prepared for their careers and are performing at extremely high levels."

August 01, 2010 / Walla Walla University
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Becky St. Clair, WWU GLEANER correspondent