Southeast Missouri State University student John Dillard, of Rolla, started and serves as vice president of Southeast's Electric Vehicle Club. The club gives students the opportunity to learn about the field of electric vehicles while gaining an understanding of the true significance of sustainability.
"I felt there was a strong need for several of the electrical and mechanical students to get more of a 'hands-on experience' within their fields," he explains.
Jack Rickard of EVTV Motor Verks, which is located a few blocks from Southeast in Cape Girardeau, is recognized as a world leader in electric vehicles. Dillard says he felt Rickard's expertise could benefit Southeast students and took the opportunity to collaborate with him in starting the campus organization.
"I realized an electric vehicle club may be a way to get other students interested in this area of study and possibly encompass many other fields of study as well," he says. "Doing this would hopefully encourage and thus provide students a chance to get a 'hands-on' approach with experience in their specific fields while at the same time show how their fields could connect with other fields of study."
Dillard is currently interning with Noranda Aluminum, a leading North American integrated producer of value-added aluminum products and high-quality rolled aluminum coils.
"There, I gain valuable experience as an electrical technician," he says.
He is also interning with the Satellite Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) on campus, sponsored by the Department of Energy, where he gains experience in the electrical, mechanical, sustainable and management fields while learning about various industries and businesses.
"I've made contacts and networks there that will last the rest of my life," he says.
Dillard is majoring in engineering technology with the option of electrical and control, and computer technology with the option of automated manufacturing at the university. He also is working toward certifications so he can work as an energy engineer and a residential energy auditor.
"I would like to help the nation but especially the Missouri area to become more energy efficient and independent," he says. "This in turn, I believe, will stimulate and develop more jobs and financial growth and independence, thereby helping the entire area and our nation."
After graduation, Dillard says he plans to work full-time with the Department of Energy while conducting research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and working at Noranda Aluminum. He says he also wants to start his own business doing energy audits for small industries and commercial and residential customers.
"No matter which direction I take or what opportunities are offered to me upon graduation, I am certain that I will enjoy the field I have studied and have worked toward, and I will be able to use my experiences and knowledge I have obtained from my education here at Southeast. I will also have the 'outside' experience that is required for my new career," he says.
Page 2 of 2 - On campus, Dillard gives back by spending several hours a week helping fellow classmates with homework and other projects.
"I enjoy helping other students with their classes by being a mentor and working with the IAC," he says.
Dillard also recently assisted with the FIRST Technology Challenge robotics competition at the Show Me Center. Robots built by 48 high school students were entered into the competition, which encourages high school students to become more interested in science and technology while gaining experience and having fun.
"It is amazing to see what these young up-and-coming people can do and what they are truly capable of. It truly gives me hope for our country's future," he says.
Dillard is a non-traditional student and 20 years older than many of his classmates. Dillard transferred to Southeast from Missouri University of Science and Technology. He previously owned and operated his own computer science business with his wife.
During what little free time he has, Dillard says he focuses on his family.
"I have a wonderful wife of 25 years, two fantastic grown adult kids and two amazing grandchildren. Among all of them, there is not enough time in the week," he says.
Together, they canoe and float down the Meramec River and swim at area lakes. Dillard's family owned land and a cabin by the Meramec River around the Rolla area where he was born and raised, so he says the woods and the river have a special place in his heart. Dillard and his family also watch movies at home and play cards and other games.
Dillard advises Southeast students, "Take full advantage of the vast knowledge and resources that are offered. Everyone in the area, especially the instructors on and off of the university campus, has been fantastic about sharing their knowledge and experience. Also, accept an internship, even if it is low, little or no pay. If you are able to commit to this, it will be a large advantage over all the competition. There are thousands of students who have your same education, but few, if any, will have any real 'hands-on' experience. This is a great résumé builder, and the knowledge and experience of an internship will be invaluable once you graduate and are ready to begin your career."