I am running a bit late this morning. I was out way past my normal bedtime at the Lynchburg Engineers Week dinner. What an amazing gathering – more than 300 people on a weeknight in a relatively small town who are at least as fascinated as I am with the process of creating useful products and structures.
I learned about a lot of local capabilities and interesting projects that had been invisible to me up until last night. For example, who knew that Sweet Briar College had started an engineering program more than 5 years ago? Who knew that it was possible to obtain a graduate degree in engineering from five major Virginia universities through distance learning and local laboratory facilities at a place that is just 10 minutes away from my new abode?
Most surprisingly, who knew that Lynchburg, VA is the home of Edison2, a company that has succeeded in creating a very lightweight automobile that won the automotive X-prize by meeting all of the standards and obtaining a measured average EPA MPG rating of about 112 miles per gallon? Last night, the featured speaker was scheduled to be Ron Mathis, Chief of Design for Edison2. Unfortunately he had a conflict arise in his schedule. Fortunately, we were treated to an entertaining and informative talk given by Oliver Kuttner, the founder and CEO of the company.
Wow. I am energized by his story of how a small team of the best people he could find managed to accomplish a feat that has eluded teams backed by at least three major automobile companies with combined annual revenues of $400 billion.
The story of why Kuttner decided to locate in Lynchburg was enlightening – he told us that it was because the city still has residents that make things, that there are machine shops that can handle special requests and that there are people who know how to work with a wide variety of materials. That was music to the ears of those 300 plus engineers and engineering supporters. I think I landed in the right town.
PS – Of course, there was also a large contingent of engineers who are working on new nuclear energy systems – this is, after all, a technical hub for both B&W and Areva along with a number of smaller suppliers. Many of the attendees told me that Kuttner’s talk was the first in several years that was not focused on nuclear energy developments.