Genius Garage revs up college students’ careers

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Speed is part of Casey Putsch’s life. He drives race cars. He designs race cars.

Putsch wants to speed up students’ progress on their career paths by working on vintage race cars. So now he’s devoting his time to Genius Garage, an educational non-profit that supercharges the resumes of college students from Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo by giving them hands-on experience working on automotive and aerospace engineering projects.

Genius Garage CEO and founder Casey Putsch poses near prototype car with student team members, from left, Madolyn Burke, Ryan Beagle, and Joseph Young.

Speaking Saturday afternoon at an open house to honor volunteers who support the program as teachers and mentors, Putsch said the project is a way to help students in a variety of disciplines to put the theoretical knowledge they learn in class to use on a real world project.

Those projects, vintage race cars, prove their worth on the race track, including at the Indianapolis Speedway, with Putsch at the wheel. The project’s newest venture will even take flight.

Putsch started Genius Garage five years ago. This year he moved the project to a Quonset hut at 400 Bishop Road in Bowling Green.

Saturday the project’s three vintage Indy-style race cars were on display for a crowd of supporters, local business owners, university representatives, politicians, family members, and local residents.

Also on view was a World War I Sopwith Camel airplane in the early stages of construction, and a high-efficiency prototype car with a recyclable chassis that Putsch is designing.

Putsch said the idea for Genius Garage came after he’d launched his career following his engineering and design studies at Ohio State University. His first educational endeavor involved working with the OSU electric motorcycle project.

He also would organize large-scale charity functions.

Putsch looked around and realized students didn’t have the opportunities to gain the kind of experience that would set them apart in the job market.

Five years ago, he said, he put much of his life on hold to develop the Genius Garage. He had the opportunity to move the project to southern California. Instead he decided to stick with his native Northwest Ohio.

The move to Bowling Green was prompted by the need for more space in a central location, convenient for UT and BGSU students as well as possible involvement by Owens and Terra community college students.

The project now employs eight on the automotive team, six on the aerospace team, and one student working with Putsch on designing the prototype car.

And the project, he said, is “completely repeatable” in other areas. He believes the project will help attract students to affiliated schools.

Students, Putsch said, do not have to pay to be involved. Everything is paid for by the foundations and individuals who support Genius Garage.

While most are studying engineering, others come from other disciplines.

The team coordinator Madolyn Burke studies special education at UT. Joseph Young, who is working on the prototype vehicle, is a UT art student.

Jennifer Lintner, a BGSU freshman in Visual Communications Technology, manages the Genius Garage Instagram account. The project, she said, brings together her two great passions, cars and social media.

When she was 5, growing up in Cincinnati, she built a wooden track at her home for her Hot Wheels cars and her father’s Matchbox cars.

Then in high school she raced go-carts and worked at the track. She also has worked on her 1999 Mazda Miata, named Harlequin.

So pulling an engine to work on its bearings and valves is not new territory for her.

Karthik Naga, a BGSU student working on a master in technology management, said his advisor MD Sarder told him about the program and encouraged him to apply.

The idea was to get some applied knowledge and work on a real team, said Naga, from southern India. Here he’s working on actually constructing a car and testing it. This takes the theoretical knowledge from the classroom and implements it, he said.

They also take field trips including one planned for the NASA Plum Brook Station.

When the team brings its vehicles to the track, Putsch said, they turn heads. In a field of pros and high-end hobbyists, they alone are a team of college students.

These are the people that companies want to hire, he said. Already Genius Garage team members have jobs at Tesla and Fiat-Chrysler.

He hopes that companies start to take note and realize they can get much more visibility sponsoring this team of bright college students than the millions spent on a professional team.

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