Former Hannaford Career Center student now a NASCAR engineer
MIDDLEBURY — On Friday, Sept. 20, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Academy at the Hannaford Career Center had an extraordinary guest speaker: Taylor Moyer. Taylor is a design engineer for Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte, N.C. Hendrick Motorsports is a premier NASCAR competitor, fielding four full-time Chevrolet teams on the Sprint Cup circuit with drivers Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Taylor Moyer is also a Shoreham native who credits his career achievement to the education he received at the Hannaford Career Center.
Taylor graduated from Middlebury Union High School in 2006. While in high school, he took Peter Jensen’s CAD courses his freshman and sophomore years, then came to the Career Center his junior and senior year for the Pre-engineering (now Engineering and Architectural Design) program. While attending the Career Center, Taylor participated in the state SkillsUSA competition in Architecture Design, and went on to compete in Kansas City at the national SkillsUSA competition, where he placed 17th. Taylor’s good friend Anthony Warren drove a dirt sprint car, and Taylor helped work on it throughout high school. They raced weekly at Bear Ridge Speedway in Vermont and Canaan Speedway in New Hampshire.
When Taylor was deciding on post-secondary education, he knew he wanted to go to a hands-on engineering school, so he chose the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. UNC-Charlotte has a shop at the school where students could work on racecars. Taylor didn’t need this, though, because during all four years of college he actually worked for race teams, changing tires on a pit crew. In answer to a student question on whether he ever got hit while on pit crew, Taylor replied that he was hit once, “and that’s when I decided to stop changing front tires and start changing rear tires.”
In addition to working on a pit crew, Taylor had a job as a fabricator his freshman/sophomore years where he learned to cut, grind and bend metal.
Taylor told the STEM students that when he started at UNC-Charlotte, he was “leaps and bounds” ahead of his classmates, due to his education at the Career Center. He also gave a plug to the Vermont public education system in general, saying the education here is far superior to other states.
Taylor graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 2010. As design engineer, he builds chassis and bodies for many of the best drivers in NASCAR: Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and others. “Obviously we make cars as light as possible,” filling in with tungsten where weight is needed. Some of the stuff Taylor does is “reverse engineering.” They do testing on cars that are performing exceptionally well, and figure out what makes them better than others. Problem-solving is a big part of the job. Every week they are finding something that will make cars faster, so they are re-designing cars each week. “I have someone’s life in my hands every time I design a part. It’s a scary thing.”
After every race, the racecars are taken completely apart, and the engineers look for part failures. The cars are torn down all the way to the chassis. Each engine is torn down after every race, too. When they went to Daytona for Speed Week this year, they took 80 motors to support all the teams, and change the motors in the cars every two days. Each team takes two cars to every race, one as a backup. Cars are built for each track specifically, and each team can have up to 14 different cars.
Taylor loves his job at Hendrick. “It’s a fun place to work.” Taylor is one of eight vehicle design engineers who work at Hendrick Motorsports, and one of 60 engineers total. The company employs more than 500 people, and they are like a big family. Hendrick hires “the best of the best” of employees at Hendrick, according to Taylor, “we work hard at being absolutely great at what we do.” NASCAR holds racecar manufacturers to the tightest tolerances, so being precise at what you do is essential. Taylor says, “It’s the best work environment I ever worked in,” and reports that employees are treated so well that most people never leave.
Taylor doesn’t travel as much as he used to, when he was pit crew. Then, he would travel up to 36 weeks of the year. Now the only time he goes to the track is when they are doing testing, to evaluate parts and gather live data.
The Hendrick company headquarters consists of several buildings: a chassis shop, a body shop, a shop for each of the four teams, a CNC (computer numerical control) shop, an engine shop, a parts department and several other departments. There are also an [KD1] artificial turf field and a state-of-the-art gym for the pit crew. Taylor reports that most of the pit crew members are ex-professional and college athletes. He explained the need for speed and strength: the tires weigh 70 pounds each, and the pit crew can change all four tires in 12 seconds. When not at a race, the pit crew are practicing and working out and figuring out ways to save even more time for the driver.
The CNC shop uses Haas CNC machines. Hendrick employs a number of skilled master machinists, and the machines run up to 18 hours a day. Machinists need to be able to use all kinds of machines, not just the CNC ones. It is just as important for them to have the skills using hand tools and lathes and milling machines as it is for them to be experts on CNC.
Taylor’s message to the students: “All it takes is hard work.” He said he wasn’t the best student in high school, but he worked hard. He also stressed the need to gain different skills. “You’ve got to be diversified.” Taylor has a degree in engineering, but he also can go out onto the floor and fabricate a part himself, if needed. “I was lucky. I figured out what I wanted to do early” and took advantage of the course offerings at the Center. “I still have my portfolio.”
Taylor told a story about interviewing for a job during his freshman year in college. He didn’t get the job in the end, but he was called in for an interview. The interviewer said, “Taylor, we just wanted to meet you. We’ve never had a freshman in college bring a portfolio.” Taylor’s portfolio was filled with examples of the work he did in the CAD and Pre-engineering classes he took at the Hannaford Career Center. “I attribute more of my success from here than what I learned in college.
A final message from Taylor: “Shoot for the top. You can always go back.” Taylor said that before he took the engineering classes at the Hannaford Career Center, he just wanted to “turn wrenches and drive fast stuff.” He believes everyone should strive for the highest level they can. “If you put your mind to it you can truly achieve anything.”
Editor’s note: This article was supplied by Marie Eddy, guidance coordinator at the Hannaford Career Center
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