The Uncommon Engineer: Re-Engineering Big Rigs with Team Aerodyme

[steam whistle]
[marching band music]
Steve McLaughlin: I’m Steve
dean of the Georgia Tech
College of Engineering,
and this is
The Uncommon Engineer.
[marching band music]
[archival recording]
Male Speaker: We’re just
absolutely pleased
as punch to have you with us.
Please say a few words.
[traffic sounds, truck air horn]
Steve McLaughlin: At Georgia
Tech, entrepreneurship
is in our blood.
It’s in our maker spaces,
our innovation classes,
and in some of
the startup programs we have.
We want our students to develop
an entrepreneurial mindset
which is both valuable
in the company environment,
valuable to startups,
but also valuable
if they want to become doctors
or lawyers or teachers.
That entrepreneur mindset
will guide them
the rest of their careers.
In previous episodes of
The Uncommon Engineer,
we’ve explored engineering
research that our faculty does.
Today we’re shifting our focus
to our students
who are creating
the next generation
of uncommon engineers.
Today I have one former student
and one current student
who have started
a company called Aerodyme.
They’ve invented a product
that helps semi trucks
save on fuel costs,
and it’s set to disrupt
the trucking industry.
So today I have Jayce Delker
who is a recent graduate
of our mechanical
engineering program.
Welcome, Jay.
Jayce Delker: Thanks
for having us.
It’s an honor.
Steve: I also have Tyler Boone
who’s a current student
in mechanical engineering
who is about to graduate.
Welcome, Tyler.
Tyler Boone: Thank you so much.
It’s an honor to be here.
Steve: I can’t tell you
how excited we are today to have
some students—we have amazing
students at Georgia Tech,
and you both are just
fantastic representatives
for our student population.
So thanks for being here.
Thanks for starting
your company.
And thanks for sharing some of
the some of your experiences
to our students.
And so before we talk
about your company,
maybe the first thing
to talk about, Tyler,
if you could share how it is you
found your way to Georgia Tech
and what got you interested
in entrepreneurship,
or the idea of possibly
starting a company.
Tyler: Absolutely.
So, it’s funny.
Georgia Tech
has been on my mind
since second grade,
believe it or not.
I had a Georgia Tech
hat that I wore to school,
and I remember my teacher
would ask me,
you know, “Isn’t it a bit early
to be thinking about college?
You’re in elementary school.”
And I was like, “No, I just
really want to be an engineer.”
And lot of my friends
at that point
don’t even know
what an engineer was,
but I got that from my father
and he was an entrepreneur
for the last 30 years plus,
and so when I was a kid,
I would be in the shop with him
and watched him as he worked
and created products from ideas.
So he would start off
with an idea.
He would design it out in CAD
and then make it in front of me.
And so my whole life
I saw that process
and really fell in love with it
and wanted to do
that myself one day.
I knew I wanted to be
an inventor of some kind,
and I knew that I wanted to work
for myself for the longest time.
And so entrepreneurship to me
is something that—
it’s not about the money
or the fame or anything else,
it’s more about
the independence
that you can get
and the freedom.
That’s what it’s all about
because if you work
for yourself,
then you have options—
and especially if you’re doing
what you love.
And if you do what you love
and that aligns with the path
that you’re taking in life,
doors open
that you didn’t have
any idea were there,
and that’s what
I want out of life.
Steve: That’s so fantastic
to hear
because those are exactly
the kinds of students
that we have here
and the students that
we really hope to come here
and focus on their ideas.
So Jayce, I would be interested
in hearing your story, too.
You know, you’ve just finished.
Jayce: I have.
Steve: So having just finished,
graduated from Georgia Tech,
you know, you might even have
a slightly different perspective
now that it’s somewhat
behind you.
So can you say a little bit
about how it is you came to Tech
and, now, what it’s like
having just finished?
Jayce: Sure. So this goes
all the way back to,
you know, just like
how Tyler mentioned
when he was a lot younger,
from an early age
I always had a fascination
with just machines
and how things worked
and building things.
And, you know, a big contributor
that was Legos.
I’m sure of a lot of people here
have a,
you know,
a common background in Legos
especially being
at an engineering school.
So, I mean, I would build my own
things at a very early age
and my mom would just
watch me as like,
“Wow, like this is just really
something different,”
and she realized that those
were like characteristics
of an engineer which,
at the time,
she didn’t even know
what an engineer was, you know?
And so we started
to sort of cultivate that.
My parents really
cultivated that in me.
I was actually homeschooled
all the way
from first grade to 12th grade.
So I had a lot of extra time
to explore my skills
and develop them.
And so going into middle school
and high school,
I actually started
my own small business
of actually restoring antiques.
And so I had a huge love
for anything,
you know, old and mechanical
and electrical,
namely like vintage radios,
jukeboxes, old tube televisions,
antique brass-age fans,
old cars—I love cars—and
I’ll get to that in a second.
But, you know, my dad and I,
we had restored,
and my grandpa,
we restored a couple of cars,
you know,
as I was always growing up.
So like I remember the first
time my dad handed me a grinder
and asked me to like cut a hole
in the frame of his car.
And I don’t remember
how old I was,
but I just remember just him
trusting me to do that
and just remember
when I drilled out the hole
and the bolt fit through,
I was like,
“Wow! That’s incredible!”
I just wanted more of that,
you know.
And so from there, of course,
you know,
when I was in middle school
and high school
I couldn’t really
completely afford to do that.
So what I ended up doing
was starting
a small business
restoring antiques,
and I eventually led me
to a job an antique store,
and I eventually worked up,
become a manager
of that antique store.
And people would bring me stuff
from all over the Southeast
and I just fixed whatever it was
and make money doing that.
And I had more money than all my
friends throughout high school
because I was fixing old,
obsolete technology.
It was the best thing!
So coming out of that,
that really just gave me
a huge appreciation
for not only,
you know, entrepreneurship
and small businesses,
but also engineering in the way
that things used to be done
in the way that, you know,
the way that, you know,
people just really
were passionate
about what they built
and what they designed.
And I really wanted to carry
that passion into Georgia Tech.
And so I applied
to Georgia Tech
and got in and, of course,
four or five years later,
here I am now.
Steve McLaughlin: Jayce,
just spend a couple of minutes
describing what Aerodyme does
and what your product is
and then we can talk about
how you got there.
Jayce Delker: Sure. So at
Aerodyme what we’re developing
is a rear aerodynamic attachment
for tractor trailer rigs.
So what really sets it apart
from anything else in the market
is actually
it’s parabolic;
it’s curved
like the back of a boat
or a race car or aircraft.
You know, you look at the back
of a tractor trailer rig
and you have this gigantic
squared off area
and, you know,
you might not realize it
but there’s actually about
300 pounds of force
pulling on the rear
of the truck at highway speed.
And so we’re doing what we can
to reduce that the best we can.
And so where we started was we
actually used parametric design
and designed the shape in CAD.
So we found out
what the DOT regulations
were—how much area
and volume
you have to play with
at the rear of the truck
before it’s, you know, of course
not legal to run on the road.
We found out that it’s five feet
from the rear of the truck.
So we went on
to try to figure out
what is theoretically
the most efficient shape
that you can put
on the rear of the truck.
And it’s this sort
of parabolic—what’s
also called a catenary curve.
And so then we try
to figure out,
well, now that we figured
out the shape,
it turns out that
the simulations showed
that it was about 17 percent
drag force reduction,
which is about 160 pounds
roughly which,
from these simulations,
equated to between
eight and twelve percent
fuel economy increase.
And so then we got
really excited about that
because that was more
than double the competition
for rear devices by a long shot.
It was incredible.
Turns out, that’s about $6,000
in fuel economy savings per year
in a five-month ROI at our price
point of slightly under $3,000.
So it makes a lot of sense
to trucking companies.
Tyler: So we spent all this time
really thinking about
what is a huge problem
that we would be able to solve
that is profitable,
that has a huge impact,
that can really
make a difference.
Steve: So Jayce, I’m hoping you
can say a little bit more
about where your company stands.
I think when—I think I got it
that, you know,
I’ve been behind a truck
too many times and I’ve seen,
you know, kind of the flaps
on the back of the truck
I figured
were for aerodynamics.
So I think even most of our
audience kind of understands
the place that you are,
and so can you talk a little bit
more about where it stands
and, you know,
the challenges you face,
why it is you’re spending—
why you’re there until
three o’clock tomorrow morning?
What are you guys doing
right now, if you can share it?
Jayce: Absolutely.
So right now we’re finishing up
our full scale prototype.
We’re probably about, I’d say,
90 percent done with it.
It’s a very difficult
mechanism to engineer,
but it’s not
a complex mechanism,
but it’s trying to engineer
that simplicity in,
that’s also robustness
which is a,
you know, a very good,
long-lasting product
especially a product
that’s going to be on a truck
for who knows how many years,
how many miles.
It needs to work every day,
every hour
that truck is on the road.
Typically trucks,
they have major maintenance
every 500,000 miles,
so we want our product
to at least meet that.
And that is a major challenge.
And you think about cars,
they have a major service
every you know
few tens of thousands of miles.
Trucks, you know, 500,000 miles
is crazy, you know.
So one thing we’re doing
right now
is we’re doing
a series of road tests.
And so we’ve done two road tests
so far
and they’ve been
extraordinarily helpful.
So we’re gearing up
for our third road test
which is going to be very close
to our production mechanism
and our production device.
And then from there,
once we validate that product,
we’re going to be transitioning
into sort of changing
into a manufacturing mindset.
Steve McLaughlin: So
I’m really curious
about where you think
the company might be headed.
So, you’ve started;
you’ve proved
a bunch of things out;
you’re about to run
a couple more tests
including a full truck,
and—what do you think is next?
How big is the company now?
What do you think’s next?
Jayce, you want to share?
Jayce Delker: So for Aerodyme
right now,
of course like
I mentioned before,
we’re getting ready
for a third road test.
And that’s going to be probably
one of our—it’s going to be
what’s oftentimes
in the industry
called “validation”.
You, you’re validating that
what you have built will perform
exactly as you intend
and for your customer
and meet all the requirements
and that kind of stuff.
And so once we finish up
those road tests,
like I said before, we’re going
to transition to manufacturing
and start really hitting
marketing a lot harder
than we have before.
We’ve been kind of laying low
a little bit
because this is, you know,
this kind of product is,
you know, if it really,
really gets out there
it’s going
to—we’re going to get
more orders
than we know what to do with.
We’ve already received 28 orders
for our device
and so that’s very,
very exciting.
And we’re also at this point
where we’re pursuing investment
through both
Create-X and also a few other
VC firms around the Atlanta area
to help us sort of drive forth
that early production run.
So one really
interesting advantage
that our product has is that
we’ve been able to do so much
with so little money so far.
So through Create-X,
the startup launch program,
they give you $4,000
to start your company,
and we’ve been able to build
multiple small-scale
two small-scale
and lower-scale prototypes
and one full-scale prototype,
and do all this validation
with it so far.
And we’ll be able to finish that
with just the money that
Create-X has given us.
And so many startups, you know,
regardless of what
their industry is
a lot of them
need millions of dollars
to get even off the ground
to even maybe even prove out
what their product is.
And so that, for us,
we don’t need very much money
to get off the ground,
and so we can just move
a lot quicker.
So we’re really excited
for those next steps,
and that is just
around the corner.
Within the next few months
we’re going to be
scaling up that manufacturing.
Extreme long-term, we would like
to have a whole set
of other aerodynamic devices
for the truck
that are just well engineered
just like this one is.
And so one thing that I think
that sets us apart
from the competition
is that for the competition,
if you look at their device,
it’s these flat panels, right?
And you can just really look
at that
and tell it is not
the most aerodynamic shape.
You know, even people that don’t
have an engineering degree
know that curve shapes
are more aerodynamic.
You look at an aircraft,
it’s curved;
it’s not square, right?
And so we just know that
that we have an edge
on the competition
based on just what we’re able to
engineer out
and prove out
and build and design.
And so we want to basically
just go around the truck
and just identify areas
where can we make improvements
on the competition.
Can we double it?
Can we three-times it?
And just go from there.
And then long-term,
we would love
to have a brand of trailer,
an Aerodyme brand trailer
that is the most aerodynamically
efficient trailer in the world.
It could save 20 or 30 percent
on fuel costs
because we’ve gone on we’ve gone
on every corner,
conceivable edge of that trailer
and found places to improve it
for the customer,
and really just use that
to drive forward
the trucking industry
and just really give it a boost
in the economy,
help them grow faster and
deliver products to Americans
and the world because
those costs they trickle down
and it allows you to have
cheaper produce,
cheaper computers,
cheaper everything,
you know, that’s really,
really what we’re about.
Steve McLaughlin: Both
of you have mentioned
the Create-X program.
And so some of our
listeners—probably most of
our listeners—don’t really know
the Create-X program,
and it’s a program here
at Georgia Tech
where we teach a little bit
of basics
about entrepreneurship
through one course
and then we help students
build prototypes.
So I’m curious about
a bunch of things,
is, you know, we want to
attract more and more students
that are interested
in building their own careers
or defining their own careers
all the way to actually
starting companies.
So can you say a little bit
about your experience
with the Create-X program,
what it is you learned,
and the kind of value that it
provided outside of coursework?
Jayce Delker: Sure.
So this is one thing
that I think really,
really sets Georgia Tech apart
from any other school.
Georgia Tech is a trailblazer
and just a pioneer
when it comes to
just allowing students
to be able
to carve their own path
if they’re not interested in,
you know, going into
the corporate world
which, I mean, you know,
all these different programs
that allow students
to be able to explore
their own
entrepreneurial interests
and take their ideas
as far as they want.
And so really, for me, one thing
that really attracted me
to Georgia Tech
was the Invention Studio.
And so the Invention Studio,
of course,
is one of the largest
student-run maker spaces
in the entire U.S.
And it’s an amazing,
amazing place.
And then not only that,
is that you have
Create-X which is a set
of classes in Capstone
and also you have Startup Launch
like it was mentioned
before that helps students
really take their ideas
to the next level.
And it’s something that I am
really, really thankful for
because it’s just
really something
that Georgia Tech
is doing different
and really trying
to break the mold
of what a traditional college
experience looks like, you know,
because you can go in—you
could go into Georgia Tech
with an idea
and then just really start
to cultivate
that during your time at Tech
and then graduate with
a business already in place.
That is huge!
You know,
where else can you do that?
Tyler Boone: But you know,
beyond that too,
it’s like the Create-X program,
it’s more than just instilling
entrepreneurial confidence,
it’s also tapping into that
potential that everybody has.
Everybody at this school
that graduates from Georgia Tech
has an incredible amount
of untapped potential,
and that’s what
this is all about.
It’s like reaching down in there
and pulling it out
because I think all of us
can change the world
if we set our mind to it
and if we had the right
infrastructure set in place
at the very beginning when
we’re going through college.
Steve: The question
that I have now is,
because I think a lot of,
let’s say students,
high school students or younger
students that are listening,
you know, kind of like,
“Oh my gosh!
“You know, these two Georgia
Tech students are so smart
“and I can’t possibly have
the same ideas
“and I can’t possibly—you know,
they’re way, way ahead of me,
“and this idea of
I have my own ideas
for maybe starting a company—”
can you talk a little bit
about that?
Because I think we want to say
to those students,
“No, just do it! Get going!”
Tyler, can you talk about that?
Make it less intimidating
for the student
because I think it is—
Tyler: Absolutely. I mean
it’s—I think it’s very easy
to get in your own head
and limit yourself.
I mean I’ve done
that so many times.
I mean there were many times
just in my time
that I was at Tech
that I felt like
I didn’t even belong here.
It boiled down to time
work ethic, you know,
just like spending the time
because that’s what it is.
It’s like some people—like
it takes me, for example,
forever to memorize something.
And, you know, and so that’s
a disadvantage
that I have
that a lot of people don’t.
At the end of the day, you just
have to believe in yourself.
And I know it’s
just—it sounds so simple,
but that’s really what it is.
You have to believe in yourself
in the most fundamental level.
Steve: Really great about
what you just shared, Tyler,
was it’s not so much
about your skill set
that you’re good
in math and science,
it’s really about your mindset
and how you approach things
and how you treat yourself
and all that.
How do I get started?
What advice would you give,
maybe to a high school student
either as they go into college
or even a recent graduate
who are really excited
by everything you said
but don’t have an idea,
maybe have a group of friends
that are like-minded,
but yet don’t yet have
that idea,
what advice
would you would them?
Jayce, do you have ideas on what
you would share with them?
Jayce: Really one of the biggest
thing—and again
this is going to
sound cliché too,
but like you know
one of the reasons
that it might be cliché
is because it’s, you know,
it’s talked about a lot
by the people that
fully understand it.
It’s really about following
your passions.
It’s just identifying something
that you love
or you’re an expert at
and trying to find
a way of packaging
that into something that
can help someone else, you know.
And like for me in high school,
you know,
nobody would ever thought
there was a market
for fixing obsolete
60-year-old electronics,
but there was, you know?
And so I always tell people,
you know—I’ve
had people come to me
and tell me an idea,
a fantastic idea,
but they think that
they don’t have the skill set
or they don’t have
the background
or you name it
to be able to do that,
and I tell them
if I can make a business
out of
fixing antique technology,
you can do that, you know.
And I’ve had a lot of people
that have been inspired by that
and gone on to create something,
you know.
And not only that it’s about
finding like-minded people.
People that either have
that same interest
or people that just, baseline,
want to change the world;
they want to find out how
and where they can
make a difference, you know.
And if you can tell them,
“Hey, I got this idea
and I need your help.
Let’s do it together,”
and that’s where it all starts.
You know like you mentioned,
you know,
even middle school
or high school seniors
or even freshmen in college
and that kind of stuff,
you might think that
because of the position
you’re in that no one
would want to listen you
but actually it’s the opposite.
You know, when you’re young
and you’re passionate
and you have an idea,
people want to help you.
Adults want to help you
because adults have
that same passion in then
and they identify it in you
and they want to help you
achieve those things.
You know I keep going back
to my business
that I had in high school,
you know.
But I think one of the reasons
I was really successful
was because
I was like 17 doing this.
You know, people were excited
about what I was doing
and wanted to help
and wanted to give me business.
And really finding about
what you want
is like look at the world
through a lens
of trying to identify places
that you can help
and you can improve
based on the skill sets
and experiences you have.
You know, look out your window
and just look at problems
that people might have
or the problems
that industry might have
and just try to think,
“How can I help them?”
Tyler: And you’re much more
likely to really help
if you know what you want.
Steve McLaughlin: Well,
Jayce, Tyler,
it’s just been fantastic
to have you here
on The Uncommon Engineer.
I think anyone who’s listening
is pretty sure that you’re going
to be successful
certainly in this
current adventure
and probably tons of adventures
down the road
and we really thank you
for coming on.
You make us proud
because you’re doing
exactly what it is
we hope you’ll do
and all the very best
with your company.
Again, thanks for coming with us
on The Uncommon Engineer.
Tyler Boone:Thank you so much
for having us.
Jayce Delker: Thank you.
It’s been a pleasure.
[marching band music]

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