University of Michigan student Alex Thayer is one of ten national recipients of the annual Alan Mullaly Scholarship. Named after former the Ford Motor Company CEO, the scholarship is funded by the Ford Motor Company and the Ford Motor Company Fund in his honor.
Thayer is grateful for the award, even more so once he fully understood its national recognition. “Once I realized the scope of the scholarship it was really cool to see. I was quite surprised and feel really honored to be selected. It is a valuable opportunity to get this support and have financial stability in these challenging times.”
Thayer says he was surprised to be selected since his studies aren’t focused specifically on automotive technology. As he explains some of the projects on his application, he realizes the depth of integration between his projects and the automotive industry goes deeper than he initially thought.
A background in battery technology allowed him to play a significant role on the Solar Car and MARS Rover teams over the past few years. In high school, his autonomous sumo wrestling robot could pull a 3,000 pound van. “This early project opened my eyes to electric and autonomous vehicles and the true potential that exists in these technologies.”
He enjoyed a related project in an entrepreneurship class last year building an autonomous vehicle that takes your trash can to the curb for you.
He also develops a lot of custom batteries, including those for his electric longboard, his primary source of campus transportation. After years riding them as a teen, he worked with the Michigan legislature in authoring a law on legalizing them.
A native Michigander, Thayer knew in high school he wanted to attend a strong engineering school. Looking at U-M and Michigan Tech, he visited both and met faculty in ECE and felt a great connection with them.
Thayer, a rising Junior studying computer engineering is also pursuing minor in entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurship component comes easy to Thayer, who has run his own electronic repair business for the last 3-4 years.
“It’s mostly data recovery from water damage. I established the business a few years ago in my home town, a beach community. Lots of people dump devices in water at the beach and need help.”
More than putting a smart phone in a bag of rice, Thayer does board level microsodering repair, working under a microscope to fix parts the size of a grain of sand or smaller.
The business travels with him to campus and back home in the summer. “I’ve invested more time and money in the business because you can stick in the back of a car and establish yourself quickly.
“Ford’s Mulally scholarship is helping to fuel the creativity and skill development of future innovators,” said Mike Schmidt, Director, Education and Global Community Relations, Ford Motor Company Fund. “We’re proud to support the dreams of promising engineering students, like Alex, who will be a driving force in business going forward.”
Thayer closes with something he wants to make sure his funders know: “I want to convey my thanks to Ford for making programs like this available for myself and others. Coming from a small town with a lower general income level, this support is significantly helpful in being able to get through all four years of college.”