In this edition of the Laker Log, we interviewed Chase Meehan ’20, who is a Test Development Engineer with Pierce Manufacturing in Madison, WI, where he worked on the Pierce Volterra Electric Fire Truck. Learn more about the recently released electric fire truck from Pierce Manufacturing and how his education at LSSU prepared him in his career.
What originally brought you to LSSU?
I grew up in Sault Ste Marie and growing up I would attend the Laker Hockey games which made me proud to be a part of such a strong community. When I was younger, I would wear Laker jerseys all the time when I was playing hockey. It just made sense to stay close to home where my support system was and continue to involve myself in the community.
What were your favorite parts about attending LSSU?
My favorite parts of attending LSSU would be remaining at home and close to my family and friends. I enjoyed being exposed to all the seasons that the Upper Peninsula has every year. Even though I live in the Midwest I still miss the changes in the seasons and don’t get to experience them as often as I once did.
How has your education from Lake State helped you advance your career?
My education from Lake State prepared me to always expect the unexpected. As a test engineer, I am involved in all facets of anything involved in the manufacturing process. This sometimes ranges from hydrolytic to drive train noise. Overall, my education helped instill in me that when I walk into work, there is a new problem that needs to be solved and no day is ever the exact same.
How did you get into/decide to become a test engineer?
I always enjoyed working with my hands and getting dirty while physically working and designing a product. As a test engineer, it allows me to have the best of both worlds. I get to be the guy doing the math behind the scenes but also get dirty and help with the fire truck.
If a prospective college student asked you why they should attend LSSU, what would you tell them?
I would tell them about the close proximity to all the professors and their willingness to help you. I worked with the engineering department when I attended LSSU, and all the professors and staff really do care. If you show that you’re invested and care about furthering your education, they are readily available to help you out. They are super knowledgeable. In general it is a good learning environment. Day to day the topics can be difficult, especially if you just walk in and try to learn them. However, the one on one time you are able to have with your professors is not readily available at other universities. I personally valued that one on one time with the professors because reading from PowerPoints and text books has never been my style.
What are your responsibilities as a test development engineer with Pierce Manufacturing?
One huge responsibility of mine is handling validation of the designs in general. Validations could range from power steering pump to a new engine, a transmission, or anything along those lines. I was also responsible for structure analysis on some of the ladders and ladder platforms (on the electric fire truck). My role involves pretty much any facet that would go into a large vehicle and especially one that can handle being in emergency situations. Also, it encompasses on the spot fixes because sometimes the initial designs don’t work so we have to come up with on the fly fixes or design proposal changes. Being a test development engineer allows me to be a little bit of a design engineer while also focusing on the validation of the design.
Are you able to talk about your role with the Pierce Volterra Electric Fire Truck?
Overall I was involved in the work with the first truck in Madison. I was the test engineer on that project and was in charge of the validation of the platform as a whole. Furthermore, my role involved seeing areas of improvement that could be made on the design and improving upon those while we still had time with the truck. By my involvement with the first truck, we were able to apply those lessons to the Portland fire truck (the second truck to be built). With the Portland truck it was more or less the same concepts and making sure to further advance the product and continue to make improvements to the platform as a whole trying to get it to a production level.
Are there plans in the works to create more Volterra Fire Trucks?
Currently we are pushing towards production as an overall goal and just signed the first production contract with Madison. The Portland vehicle is about to be delivered and will be in service shortly. There are more trucks currently coming through the pipeline and should be in service within the next 1 – 2 years, so there is much more to be expected! It is really cool to be a part of this project and to see how far we have come in such a short time. It makes me excited to see how much further we can come in the next coming years!
Has anything changed for Pierce Manufacturing since winning the 2022 Popular Science “Best of What’s New Award”?
We have more bragging rights when it comes to the award, especially when talking with competitors. On a technical level, winning this is something we can talk about within the corporation and joke around with other EV projects. It’s an impressive accomplishment and exciting to see how far technology has come and hopefully one day the product will become widespread across the nation.
To read more about the Pierce Volterra Electric Truck, click here!