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Advisor uses simulations and teamwork to assess vehicle dynamics
MAE alumnus Jeffrey Chrstos ('92 MS, '01 PhD, Mechanical Engineering) is bringing his industry knowledge of vehicle dynamics from the race track to the lab at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR).
Chrstos earned his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Drexel University, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is where he grew up. He started gaining real-world experience during his multiple engineering co-ops with industry-leading companies as part of Drexel’s cooperative learning program. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, he moved to Ohio and began working at the Transportation Research Center (TRC), contracted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, while he earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from The Ohio State University.
Chrstos has been contracted to Ford’s racing activities since 1998, working on simulation and vehicle dynamics for IndyCar, Formula One, NASCAR and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) races. He has been bringing this experience to CAR since 2009 where he works with his former Ph.D. committee member, Professor Giorgio Rizzoni, director of CAR.
“My research is on passenger and racing vehicle dynamics: vehicle ride and handling,” said Chrstos. “This is through computer simulation and physical testing.”
At CAR, Chrstos uses Driver-in-the-Loop (DiL) simulator technology to test vehicle dynamics under a variety of simulated conditions. It’s difficult for engineers and drivers to anticipate race conditions and make proper adjustments at the track, so the simulations allow engineers to tune the vehicle’s baseline settings before leaving for the race. In a DiL simulator, the driver is able to sit in a functioning model of the real car and practice maneuvers without taking the car out of the garage.
The simulator consists of a series of screens that show virtually what the driver would see in reality, as well as a passenger seat situated on a “buck,” which contains the vehicle’s front framework, steering wheel, dashboard, pedals, gearshift and switches to accurately mimic the driver’s activities and lines of sight.
Chrstos, with the help of student researchers and industry sponsors, is building a small DiL simulator which will be available for use by the university’s student motorsports teams and in some automotive-related classes. In fact, the Formula Buckeye team is building a detachable cover for the simulator’s buck that replicates the interior of the racecar, allowing vehicle dynamics assessment and driver training to be conducted in the virtual world.
In addition to performing research at CAR, Chrstos assists all student motorsports teams on vehicle dynamics-related topics. He also has been the advisor for the Formula Buckeyes since 2015, and he recently won the Outstanding Advisor Award for the positive impact he has made on the team. When asked what his favorite part of working with the Formula Buckeyes is, Chrstos said, “Seeing the commitment and effort the students put into the team. They are learning how to work as a team, rather than as individuals, which will serve them well in their careers.”
He suggests that students who are considering an engineering career first get hands-on work experience while in school.
“Engineering is a difficult career to understand until you start working with engineers,” Chrstos explained. “The best way to do this is through internships, and that can even start in high school. I did three co-op rotations when I was an undergraduate at Drexel Engineering, and they were extremely helpful in helping me understand what direction I wanted my engineering career to go.”
Chrstos’ fast-paced activities aren’t confined to his work. As the father of two elementary-age children, he is constantly moving and doing activities with his kids, which means he doesn’t have much free time for hobbies. However, when he manages to find some time to himself, he enjoys golfing, running and rowing his single scull boat.