Outstanding Graduate Students

Each year, NIATT honors one especially outstanding graduate student by naming that person Student-of-the-Year. Students are selected based on the technical merit of their research, academic performance, and professionalism and leadership. The NIATT student is then submitted to represent UI for a chance to be the TranLIVE or the PacTrans UTC Student-of-the-Year. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) recognizes the Student-of-the-Year from each university transportation center at a special ceremony during the annual Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington, DC. The student also receives $1,000 cash award and a trip to DC for the annual TRB conference.

2014 Student-of-the-Year Rory Lilley

TranLIVE selected Rory Lilley the 2014 TranLIVE Student of the Year. As a Mechanical Engineering master’s Rory Lilleystudent at the University of Idaho, Rory has served as an effective leader/organizer/technical consultant to our undergraduate Formula Hybrid SAE team. This project has been sponsored by TranLIVE as an educational outreach since the inception of the TranLIVE center and by the Idaho Engineering Works in the senior design program. Rory worked his way up through the student ranks, as an undergraduate team member, as a senior design student, as a UTC intern, and as a UTC graduate student. Currently, he is an excellent role model in terms of his dedication to hard work, his recruiting of new inter-disciplinary talent to the team, his ability to organize training sessions/design experiences that capture and retain important vehicle design knowl­edge, his rapport with faculty advisors, his familiarity with manufacturing equipment in our machine shop, his ability to deploy testing equipment in our small engines laboratory, his ability to accurately simulate engine/powertrain systems, and his high standards in the authorship of project reports/technical papers. The impact of his efforts, coaching, and all-around vehicle knowledge can be seen in the FHSAE team success at the 2014 International Formula Hybrid Competition. This included 1st place overall, the Chrysler Innovation Award, and the GM Hybrid Electric Design Award. Rory has been an integral part of the UI FHSAE legacy for many years and his efforts continue to pay it forward to future vehicle platform teams as well as engine design/ engine testing research projects. Contributions in both areas are closely aligned with DOT UTC mobility, sus­tainability, and human resource missions.

Rory received the award at the annual Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) Award Banquet in Washington D.C., January 10, 2015.

Andrew Hooper2013 Student-of-the-year Andrew "Drew" Hooper

UI mechanical engineering graduate Andrew (“Drew”) Hooper has been selected Student-of-the-Year for the PacTrans regional UTC, which is based at the University of Washington. He was selected as the most exceptional student studying transportation in the five northwest universities that comprise the PacTrans research group.  Drew graduated Fall 2013 with a MS in Mechanical Engineering from the UI.  He is now a project engineer with Polaris. 

His expertise is in the area of clean and efficient direct-injected two-stroke engine development.  He was instrumental in the achievements of the UI Clean Snowmobile Team in the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge in 2013, which won overall Third Place, and a record of 10 other trophies and awards.  The UI snowmobile had the same pollution emissions as the cleanest four-stroke machines, while being equally fuel efficient and 200-300 pounds lighter.  With Polaris, Andrew is now working on the next generation of clean two-stroke engines. 

Drew is author or co-author on two papers that have been submitted to the Society of Automotive Engineers for publication as technical papers and presentation at the international Small Engines Technology Conference, the premier global venue for work in small engines.  One of the papers received the Best Technical Paper Award at the Clean Snowmobile Challenge in 2013. 

Drew also was a member of the senior design team which designed and now has a patent on a synchronous charge trapping (SCT) two-stroke engine.  The SCT valve is unique in that it operates at any engine speed, and may be able to replace the heavy, bulky, large tuned pipe which is placed in the exhaust of a typical two-stroke engine.  These rotary exhaust valves operate at the speed of the engine and greatly reduce emissions from the engine by improving scavenging.  This saves weight and space, and reduces costs. His thesis examined the pollution emissions produced by the engine and is entitled “COMPARISON OF SYNCHRONOUS CHARGE TRAPPING AND VARIABLE EXHAUST VALVES IN A TWO-STROKE ENGINE. 

During his graduate career, Andrew also had an internship with Bombardier Recreational products, makers of Evinrude and Ski-Doo, and learned how to control combustion in two-stroke engines. 


All of NIATT graduate students are outstanding.

Read about what some of them are doing

Why get a graduate degree?

National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology

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