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The Future is Electric:

Talking Vehicle Technology with Christopher Basilio

by Matthew Brett

     Christopher Basilio
Christopher Basilio
  Christopher Basilio 1

Look no further than Christopher Basilio to get a sense of where the vehicle technology industry is headed. Chris is the Research Coordinator for the Vehicle Technology & Energy Centre (VTEC) at Red River College.

He works on applied research and development projects in partnership with industry, with an emphasis on vehicle development and performance improvement. This includes research on vehicle weight reduction, emissions reductions, vehicle electrification and sensor applications on vehicles.

A recent project highlight for Chris was working with New Flyer and Winnipeg Transit, installing data loggers on an electric bus to study battery performance in a climate that undergoes significant change between winter and summer.

“It’s an eye-opener for students to work hand-in-hand with industry and have a glimpse into what industry is doing and to work with experts,” Chris said of the project. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase what the College can bring to industry, and what we can do with industry in the future.”

Adapting to the climate in work & life

A newcomer to Canada, Chris arrived with his wife and two daughters from the Philippines in August 2016. The key to a big move like this is to embrace change, Chris said.

“It’s really totally different in Canada,” he said. “In the Philippines, 35 degrees is the normal. The key on that is embracing the culture, weather, and people. That’s what I find unique in Canada because it really has been very welcoming, unlike some other countries. We really appreciated that. We chose wisely.”

The college chose wisely too. Chis has over 10 years of experience in the semiconductor industry, and joined the VTEC team in March 2017.

He has a Chemical Engineering Degree from University of the City of Manila and a Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering and Semiconductor Packaging from Arizona State University. He’s also a Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and member of Engineers Geoscientist Manitoba as an Engineer in Training.

Chris is guided by VTEC Research Manager Jojo Delos Reyes, and works alongside a growing team of student research assistants, recent graduates, faculty, and staff.

“It really is an honour to work at the college and to impart the knowledge that I’ve gained in industry, and to help students understand what it’s like to work in industry and in research settings,” Chris said. “It’s really a privilege to work in this setting, and to get the kind of input that we get from students, faculty and industry. It’s really a great model.”

The future of vehicle technology

VTEC have drafted plans for the coming years to adapt to a rapidly changing vehicle technology industry, Chris said.

“We have a very good list of projects that we’ll be working on in the coming years,” he said. “Right now, we’re just aligning those projects with industry partners, and it’s very exciting.”

VTEC have held planning sessions to identify priorities and trends, and the VTEC team continue to consult closely with industry partners. The team has also expanded in preparation for an ambitious research agenda.

As for trends, Chris says the emphasis is shifting toward big data analytics, electrification, and autonomous vehicles.

“We’re moving on that trend and industry is pushing us in that direction too. Data is really the future. It’s a big and exciting challenge,” Chris said. “Alternative energy sources will become a major thing in the future, so some of the projects we’ll be dealing with will involve alternative energy sources like hydrogen.”

Teamwork putting it all together

The backbone of all of this is softer skills like communications, flexibility, and an ability to work with diverse stakeholders. That is the nature of applied research partnerships, and it’s where Chris thrives.

“You really need to have a good sense of camaraderie, how to work collaboratively with faculty, staff, students and industry,” he said. “We all have our own schedules and priorities, yet have to work together because each of us have specific expertise.”

Chris said the curriculum will also have to adapt to meet these changing trends, keeping up with input received from industry.

“We need to anticipate those kinds of technologies and be ready as a college,” Chris said. “These skill-sets are continually and rapidly evolving, so we need to stay ahead of this in our work and curriculum.”

There’s also the summer to look forward to. Chris enjoys playing badminton, biking, reading sci-fi, and learning about new technologies.

“When you watch old sci-fi films, there’s a lot of future technology there that has become reality. Science-fiction can often project or give inspiration for the future,” he said.

For now, the future is electric.

Matthew Brett is the Research Communications Coordinator in Research Partnerships & Innovation at Red River College in Winnipeg. This article is reprinted by permission of:

  • Jojo Delos Reyes, Research Manager, NSERC/SSHRC RGO & VTEC Program Manager, Research Partnerships & Innovation, Red River College; and
  • Ray Hoemsen, FEC, P. Eng., Executive Director, Research Partnerships & Innovation, Red River College.

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