BYU professor leads students to more than a first place trophy

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BYU engineering students won first place in the 2012 Formula Hybrid Competition with their lightweight, power-packed, hybrid-electric racecar and with the guidance of their uplifting professor.

Formula Hybrid is a annual competition for undergraduate and graduate college students where teams design, build and showcase their own open-wheel, single-seat, electric or plug-in hybrid-electric racecars.

The BYU team, Hybrid Blue, was led to victory by Robert H. Todd, an engineering professor at BYU. Todd is excited about the win, but said there is something more important than building a first place race car.

“It’s true we build cars,” Todd said. “But we’re really building people.”

The road to the competition was long and difficult at times. The team worked from 7-10 a.m., six days a week and started working additional hours at night as race day got closer. Students worked roughly eight to 10 hours a day on the project.

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Dr. Robert Todd and the Hybrid Blue engineering team celebrate a well-earned first place victory for their hybrid-electric race car
Todd worked alongside his students every step of the way. He said this project was preparing the students for their future.

“We use these projects as a means to an end,” Todd said. “The end is to prepare students to be leaders in their education, career, family and community.”

The win was well-earned, but didn’t come easy. There were several last minute problems with the car that needed to be fixed before competition. Todd said opposition in all things helps to build faith.

“Heavenly Father gives us opposition and challenges that we might learn to strengthen our faith and learn to overcome them,” Todd said. “We ought to recognize them as really being evidence that he loves us, because he does.”

Todd understands the value of learning and tries to teach it to all of his students. He teaches them the five attributes of a great learner, inspired by a devotional address delivered on October 21, 1997, by Elder Henry B. Eyring, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The five attributes of a great learner are a great learner welcomes correction, makes and keeps commitments, works hard, helps others learn and expects opposition and works to overcome it.

Kevin Francis, a mechanical engineering student on the team, said Todd practices what he preaches.

“The great thing about Dr. Todd is he teaches us by example,” Francis said. “He gives us opportunities to come against barriers and difficulties and to realize that we had a breakdown and work to have a breakthrough.”

Todd has taught at BYU for more than 20 years and this is his last year at BYU. The team was happy to end the year with a win.

Hank Iroz, a manufacturing engineering student on the team, said Todd has done so much for the team and the university.

“To send out Dr. Todd out with an overall victory in his last year was icing on the cake,” Iroz said. “He has really made this engineering program at BYU one of the nation’s leading programs. We’re really happy that he was part of the team this year.”

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