Swinburne engineer helps Toyota’s NASCAR team find racing success
Tuesday 22 October 2019
- Swinburne graduate Scott Mitchell finds success as a world-class engineer in US motorsports
- Scott made the move to California over 17 years ago to take up a dream role at Toyota Racing Development
- He credits his diverse skillset to the hands-on opportunities and support he received while studying at Swinburne
What happens when you’re an engineer with a fiery passion for motorsports?
You join one of the most accomplished and acclaimed engineering companies in the game and help them race in NASCAR.
Originating in the 1940s, NASCAR quickly gained popularity for stock-car racing, evolving into what exists today as one of the fastest growing sports in America.
As a young boy growing up in Horsham in regional Victoria, Scott Mitchell wasn’t exactly sure what an engineer did, but he knew he loved pulling things apart and seeing how things worked.
“I didn’t complete Year 12. I actually went to a TAFE in Ballarat and then, shortly after, moved down to finish my Certificate of Technology in Melbourne,” Scott says.
Scott started working for Telecom Australia (now Telstra) in 1985 but had ambitions to take his career further.
“I realised that having an engineering qualification had the potential to open doors to a broader range of career options for me,” he says.
In 1988, Scott commenced his degree at Swinburne as a mature-age student.
Driving his own career
Scott admits that his path through education was far from straight, but he says the curves in the road and the challenges have made it much more worthwhile.
“I had been supporting myself in a lot of respects since I had moved away from home when I was 16. I had a lot of family stuff going on during my degree that made it challenging, but I just didn’t give up.”
“The School of Engineering supported me a lot. They understood my challenges. I don’t know if I ever would have completed my degree without that support,” he says.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering (Electronics and Communications) in 1994, followed by a Graduate Diploma of Management at Swinburne, Scott decided it was finally time to race after his motorsports dream.
Heading first to Japan, then the United Kingdom, finally a door opened for Scott in the United States.
Scott has travelled all around the United States with Toyota Racing Development's NASCAR team.
The work never stops
For over 17 years, Scott has been the Electronic Systems Engineer at Toyota Racing Development, where he works in the electronic design department.
NASCAR hosts 36 races per year. There are only a handful of weekends off, a lot of logistical challenges to meet and a lot of electronics problems to solve. It is fast-paced and high-pressure, but that is just how Scott likes it.
“Just about every aspect of the electronics that go into the engine falls under my design. The work never stops and sometimes borders on chaos because we are always playing catch up with technology. You think you have it all worked out one minute and then you find out it’s all coming apart on the other end, and you’re scrambling to get it fixed,” Scott says.
“Some of what I do is like investigating a crime scene. You have to pay close attention to not disturb anything otherwise it makes it that much harder to understand what went wrong!”
There are no shortcuts
Scott lives in California, drives a hydrogen fuel cell car and has front row tickets to the biggest NASCAR race meets in the world, but he is adamant that without dedicating himself to his studies and gaining hands on experience, he would not be in the position that he is today.
Scott shares his practical tips for students:
“Experience counts for everything. There are no shortcuts. You just have to get your hands dirty. So, anything you can do to build up your skills is always good. Make it part of your everyday, even just as a hobby you could be programming, building things, working on electronic gadgets or engines.”
“Learn the value of a group effort and working with others to get further in a project. It’s rare to work on any projects now that don’t involve some sort of collaboration. So support your classmates, help each other, teach other. Don’t become an island.”
“Following your dreams is what it’s all about. You might struggle financially, but one day the money will catch up with you. Don’t limit yourself and just pursue what you’re passionate about.”