Honda Engineer Spends Year with FutureTruck Team

There was a lot more from Honda than the Insight engine involved in the makeup of this year’s FutureTruck — there was also a young engineer from Honda R&D in Japan working alongside the team of Mechanical Engineering undergraduates on the stock 2002 Ford Explorer.

Takeo “Tax” Yokoyama is a motorcycle engineer at Honda Research and Development in Japan. He has been at the University of Maryland since July 2002 as part of the ISR-Honda Visiting Scientist Program, administered by the Institute for Systems Research. The program provides early career engineers from Honda with a 14-month immersion in English language and American culture. ISR matches the engineers with university faculty for research based on their mutual interests. Tax has been working with Professor David Holloway and the FutureTruck team during his time here.

Tax chose the FutureTruck program not necessarily because he wanted to work on a vehicle project, but because he wanted to interact with as many American students as possible. While his background is in performance motorcycles, the FutureTruck was very different. Tax says that while the technology behind the FutureTruck is not very advanced — they were using existing hybrid-electric and ethanol engine technology — the combination of these technologies and the problem-solving that went on in making it work for an SUV was appealing to him.

Tax was also interested in working with Dr. Holloway. In initial interviews for placement with various departments and faculty on campus, Tax was very attracted to Dr. Holloway’s personality and hands-off advising style. “He didn’t emphasize winning,” Tax says. “Education is his primary mission; he lets the students learn through doing.” He knew he made the right decision at the FutureTruck competition this past June in Michigan. While talking with some of the other teams there, Tax became more and more impressed by his Maryland colleagues. “The Maryland students seemed much more mature than the others. Other teams were required to do the FutureTruck project, and their advisors forced them to go in the right directions. Maryland students chose to participate in FutureTruck. Dr. Holloway let his students make decisions on their own, so that they could learn for themselves.”

With his year at Maryland coming to a close at the end of July, Tax will have fond memories of his stay and the friends he made. He proudly wears a Terps baseball cap, autographed by the entire FutureTruck team, and says that this year was a very good and fresh experience for him. Tax was born and grew up in Tokyo, and this was his first time out of Japan. While he looks forward to his return home, he knows already that he will miss his life in the US. “I feel half and half; while I miss my Japanese life, I know that I will miss my American life, too.”

Published June 15, 2003