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Support VRI - and get your gift matched!

Raised toward our $100,000 Goal
61 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on December 31, at 12:00 PM PST
Project Owners

Support VRI - and get your gift matched!

Help us reach $100,000 and get your gift matched 1:1

Double the impact of your gift - make it by December 31st and have it matched by Nate Rodriguez '94!

We're only $12,000 away from our goal of $100,000 which will fully endow a fund that will generate annual support to assist with student car projects, stipends for speakers and consultants - AND money to upgrade and acquire equipment that benefits all students.

(The first $6,000 in gifts made by December 31st will be matched to equal $12,000)


Here's an update from Director of the program Eric Leonhardt:

Imagine the sound of a small bore, 4 cylinder engine running in a vehicle, possibly designed and built by you.  Imagine racing away on an autocross track teeming with Porsches and other racing cars challenging the track.  Imagine your excitement, pride and sense of accomplishment being part of team that designed, built and tests this vehicle.  

One that our current crop of students experienced as our latest Formula SAE vehicle, Viking 58, raced in its first autocross on October 15 in the penultimate 2016 NW Porsche Club autocross.   

Whether our future vehicles are powered by the latest lithium ion batteries, bio-methane, biodiesel or even gasoline, your support of the Vehicle Research Institute Endowment powers the future of our vehicle designers and engineers.  And enables them to have the experience outlined above. 

As an added thrill, I was able to join our students on the track in Viking 26 (1995).  This car, brought back to life by alumni Jared Floyd, Paul Van Metre, Ed West, Tim Roddick, Mark Dudzinski, and Trever McDermott, allowed some of our alumni to relive our own experiences of designing, building and testing a vehicle. 

Thank you for your support of the Vehicle Research Institute Endowment.  This has been a great way to celebrate over forty years of vehicle and technology education at Western Washington University. Following our special 40th anniversary event, Nate Rodriguez (Viking 10, XX, and 22) led the charge to create the Vehicle Research Institute Endowment.  Thanks to your support, we are very close to achieving our goal of raising $100,000.  This will produce a 4% per annum return that can be used to support our students and fund some of the specialized equipment required to design, build and test vehicles.  Our initial target will be to help improve our engine/electric motor testing and analytical capabilities. 

We have been very fortunate to have had nearly ten years of service from Mark Dudzinski (Viking 26, 28) supporting and educating students about safe, innovative design and manufacturing.  We are thrilled to add Leo Matthews (Viking 24, 26, 28) this past summer to our team.  Leo has extensive experience building racing cars and engines, including supporting Honda Performance Development and their CART and IRL programs.  Already Leo has made an impact on our lab facilities and our student project teams.   We have enjoyed meeting weekly with Dr. Seal to learn more about our VRI heritage and our common interests in vehicles, engines and electric motors.

I appreciate the guidance and involvement of alumni with our students and programs.  With our Advisory Board, including Ed West (Viking 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32!) and Paul Van Metre (Viking 24, 26, 28) we have worked to update our curriculum to prepare the Vehicle Design degree for ABET accreditation (the primary accreditation body for engineering in North America) as a Vehicle Engineering program.  We have met with groups of alumni to discuss the pros and cons of moving to vehicle engineering.  We are all concerned about continuing to value and practice the “hands-on” or applied nature of our program.  We develop industry-ready skills while improving the analytical tools students have to tackle design and manufacturing challenges.  To support our students, the Physics Department added a thermodynamics course for the vehicle program.  We are working to incorporate matrices for solving suspension force problems for all vehicle students.  We also added a year-long Capstone Design project, a requirement for ABET accreditation, to the curriculum that attempts to tie the vehicle design and building practices in the lab with design, analysis, and project management in the classroom.   For the past two state budget biennium’s we have provided plans to Western to move the program to Vehicle Engineering.  Ultimately Western and Washington State will need to continue to hear from employers and alumni about the value of supporting this type of program.  The VRI Alumni Endowment helps us demonstrate the value and support of the vehicle design program. 

We are excited about our newest Formula SAE car, Viking 58.  Recently we met with alumni to perform a design review.   Thank you for all who participated.  This is the first time we have had a new, running FSAE vehicle this early in the year.  We encourage the team to develop while preparing the documentation and testing necessary for a top-ten finish.  We are developing a training program with the team leadership for the more than forty new recruits from across campus.  A mock dynamic event including technical inspection, acceleration, skid-pad, autocross and endurance will be held in December.   

As we roll into the future, our students are learning about electric vehicles with our latest vehicle, Lyn Okse  (“Lin Ok-say”—Norwegian for Lightning Ox).  This 1400 lb., aluminum monocoque chassis uses a cabover design to support our campus grounds crew.    A 7.2 kWh battery pack powers a 75 kW motor through a 4 speed transmission to manage Sehome's steep slopes.  Funded by the Associated Students of Western through the Sustainable Action Fund, the project has been a great way for students to design a vehicle with real-world applications and to develop a new way to interact with the campus. 

Your support ensures that our students continue to have significant design and development experiences to prepare them for productive futures.  Be on the lookout for further communication from us as we work to reach our goal of $100,000 for the VRI Alumni Endowment and plans moving forward. We’re nearly there! Thanks again for your support in getting us this far – your gift makes a financial impact but most importantly, it sends a message to our students that they are a part of a legacy of VRI students who believe in the quality of the program and the value of inspiration.


Sincerely from the VRI,

Eric Leonhardt - Director

Mark Dudzinski - Technical Staff

Leo Matthews - Technical Staff

Join us in making a personally significant gift by participating in our crowd funding campaign. A gift of any amount helps! After you make your gift, please help in attaining our milestones by reaching out to the alumni you know and ask them to participate. We look forward to celebrating with you once we reach our goal!

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