At a Glance
Major(s): Mechanical Engineering
Activities: River Hawk Racing, Honors College, Study Abroad, Immersive Scholars
Mechanical engineering major Garrett Perry knew UMass Lowell was the school for him when he toured campus and saw the garage for River Hawk Racing, the student club that builds a Formula One-style race car for national collegiate competitions each year.
“I’ve always been into cars, and I knew that’s something that I really wanted to get involved with,” says Perry, an Honors College student from Ashland, Massachusetts, who joined the club as a freshman. He became president his sophomore and junior years — when his main task was keeping the club together virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, as chief engineer his senior year, Perry’s focus is on making sure the club — which serves as UML’s chapter of SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers) — has a car to resume racing in the spring Formula SAE competition.
“It’s a valuable experience that you can put on your résumé, and it proves that you’re taking what you learned in the classroom and applying it to a project outside the classroom,” he says of Formula SAE, where companies such as Tesla, SpaceX, Blue Origin and General Motors come to recruit students.
Perry, who interviewed with Tesla following the 2019 race in Michigan, says his River Hawk Racing experience has him leaning toward starting his career in motor sports.
“Learning how the industry works, how much work goes into it and how passionate those engineers are, that’s definitely my target,” says Perry, who figures he can always transition into the traditional automotive industry later.
Perry is also leaning toward attending graduate school in Europe. During the summer before his senior year, he studied abroad with a dozen other UML students at Pforzheim University with the Engineers Made in Germany program.
“It was an amazing experience. It’s so different culturally, and you see towns that were built before America was even a thing,” says Perry, who participated thanks to a $4,000 Immersive Scholars award.
In addition to courses in emerging technology and supply chain management, Perry visited factories and museums for Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. In his free time, he visited the Austrian Alps and tried skydiving for the first time.
“It definitely expanded my view on international studies and living abroad,” he says.
Perry, who became an Eagle Scout in high school, has also worked as an R&D engineering co-op at Entegris, an intern with Cohesion Motorsports and an engine verification and validation research assistant in the Francis College of Engineering.
What advice would Perry give to River Hawks just starting college?
“The experience of joining a club like River Hawk Racing is more valuable than you could ever know,” he says. “Having a project on your résumé that you've worked on for three or four years shows employers that you have that commitment and that passion.
“And it's also a great way to just have fun,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity to build a car from the ground up — to use the machine shops in the (Lawrence Lin) MakerSpace, to learn how to weld and how to tune an engine — and then maybe drive it, if you’re lucky enough.”