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Wednesday, August 18, 2010 - Hybrid vehicle revs up SBA, encourages learning across disciplines
A team of Oakland University students is one of the first in Michigan — and one of a select few in the nation — to develop a fuel-efficient vehicle for the Formula Hybrid competition, which promotes drive train innovation and the use of alternative energy.

Thie competition isn’t just for aspiring engineers, but also for business students. While OU engineering students are designing, building and racing a high-performance, plug-in hybrid vehicle in the Formula Hybrid International Competition at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in May 2011, School of Business Administration students are responsible for business planning, accounting, finance, graphic arts and public relations.

“The students learn how to work across disciplines and gain real-world business experience,” said SBA Dean Mohan Tanniru. “We are proud to support such an effort of excellence through integrative thinking and hard work. These are the types of leaders needed to transform this region.”

Accounting major Steve Manduzzi, a 2009 SBA graduate, joined the team to fulfill an internship requirement, but decided to stay on the team even after the internship ended.

“It’s an eye-opening experience to work with different mindsets in different disciplines,” Manduzzi said. “We have constructive debates to better understand each other’s positions and, ultimately, further our common goal.”

This sentiment is echoed by others on the team. Kirk McGuire, an electrical engineering student and the project's president and CEO said, “The business guys didn’t always understand where we were coming from. But fair being fair, we didn’t always appreciate their concerns.”

He added, however, that the cross-disciplinary approach is vital to learning about working in the real world. It’s also essential to turn out a superior product.

“Engineers would much rather design and build a car than create a business plan, oversee legal requirements or secure financing,” McGuire said. “Having business students on the team meant the engineers could focus on what they do best, without worrying about the business details.”

Team sponsors include OU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, the SBA’s Center for Integrated Business Research and Education (CIBRE) and Magna Electronics.