Third DENSO grant expands Vanderbilt’s engine test facilities


Britt Autry (BE’92), vice president, North American Production Promotion Center, DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, presents a check to VUSE Associate Dean Cynthia Paschal. Back row, from left: Brian Crawford, DENSO senior specialist; Gary Walker, energetics lab manager; Dexter Watkins, mechanical engineering graduate teaching assistant; Chris Lyne, mechanical engineering graduate teaching assistant; and Amrutur Anilkumar, professor of the practice of aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering. (Heidi Hall/Vanderbilt University)

A third grant from the DENSO North America Foundation will enable the expansion of internal combustion engine test facilities in the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University.

The $45,000 award to the Department of Mechanical Engineering was presented Aug. 12 to support a spark ignition test facility in the Energy Engineering Laboratory. Earlier DENSO grants helped set up turbojet engine and biodiesel engine test facilities.

Britt Autry (BE’92), vice president, North American Production Promotion Center, DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, visited the School of Engineering to present DENSO’s gift.

“We developed a master plan about 15 years ago to revamp the entire undergraduate Energy Engineering Laboratory from the ground up, and approached DENSO to help set up the new engine test facilities. We are thankful for the generous grants from the DENSO Foundation,” said Amrutur Anilkumar, professor of the practice of aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering.

The extensive undergraduate energetics laboratory in Featheringill Hall is used to train mechanical engineering seniors in contemporary and classical aspects of energy conversion, including renewable energy production and utilization.

The lab also is available for mechanical, chemical, and environmental engineering capstone design projects. Members of the Vanderbilt SAE Motorsports Club use the engine test facilities for training, and it is used for outreach activities for area high schools students.

“Since 2001, the DENSO Foundation has been the primary benefactor in the redesign of our automotive engine test facilities, giving our students real engineering design and hands-on experience. We are grateful for this ongoing, valuable relationship,” said Philippe Fauchet, dean of the School of Engineering.

Engineering graduates have found the energetics lab curriculum very useful in their careers, Anilkumar said.

“The energetics laboratory taught me in a practical way to compare all forms of energy production, both renewable and non-renewable, and to help understand what is required for our energy future. The calculations we did in our lab put numbers behind these different forms of energy to make their differences more tangible,” said Revanth Sanne, a 2015 mechanical engineering graduate who recently joined Tesla as a manufacturing engineer after finishing an internship at Nissan.

Anilkumar demonstrates some of the technology funded by the DENSO Foundation's generosity.

”The energetics lab is a very important component of the mechanical engineering undergraduate experience. I really enjoyed the various hands-on experiments where we were able to apply thermodynamics and fluid mechanics theory. It enhanced my interest in energy engineering and renewables and helped lead me to a career at Siemens Energy,” said Jennifer Frankland, a 2011 graduate and an external advisory committee member for the department.

“The DENSO engine test facilities, along with our advanced aerospace testing facilities and the wind and solar renewable energy facilities at Love Circle, provide us with one of finest energy engineering labs for undergraduates. DENSO’s effort in helping us train a skilled, knowledgeable, and well-trained workforce is very commendable,” said Anilkumar, the principal investigator of energetics projects.

DENSO is one of the world’s largest suppliers of advanced automotive technology, systems and components in the areas of thermal, powertrain control, electronics and information and safety. Its customers include all the world’s major carmakers. Worldwide, the company has more than 200 subsidiaries and affiliates in 38 countries and regions and employs more than 140,000 people. In North America, DENSO employs more than 22,000 people at 30 consolidated companies and affiliates. For more information, visit

The DENSO North America Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 corporate foundation, is dedicated to helping students advance their education in engineering, technology and other related programs. Founded in 2001, the Foundation provides grants to colleges and universities throughout North America, helping communities prosper through the development of a skilled and knowledgeable workforce. Proposals for these education grants are considered by invitation only.


Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314