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TTU News

Tennessee Tech University students will soon build rugged Mini Baja vehicles and smooth Formula One-type cars in the DENSO Vehicle Engineering Center, thanks to a donation from the DENSO North America Foundation. Automotive supplier DENSO has Tennessee operations, DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, with locations in Maryville and Athens, where more than 2,800 are employed.

The first installment of the $120,000 gift, which will be used to provide a well-equipped manufacturing and testing facility, was presented to Tennessee Tech President Bob Bell and the College of Engineering at a recent ceremony and dinner.

DENSO is a leading global automotive supplier of advanced technology, systems and components to all the world’s major carmakers, including DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Toyota, Honda, General Motors and Mitsubishi. 

"With DENSO's support, we will now be able to pursue worldwide recognition for our institution and our supporters," said Dale Wilson, TTU's Mechanical Engineering Department Chairperson. "For all of our successes, we are operating in facilities that have not been significantly upgraded in 25 years. DENSO has stepped up so we can step up."

The DENSO Vehicle Engineering Center will house two large student design projects, the Mini Baja and Formula SAE projects supported by the Society of Automotive Engineers, proven to help engineering students obtain advanced skills before they graduate. 

Mini Baja is a design competition that challenges engineering students to work as a team in the designing, building and testing of an off-road vehicle that is capable of negotiating rough terrain. Tennessee Tech ranks as one of the most successful Mini Baja teams in history with 18 top three finishes, including nine 1st place finishes, against some of the best engineering schools in North America.

The Formula SAE competition requires students to design and build a scale version of a Formula One race car. More than 130 universities and colleges, plus major automobile manufacturers, participate in the annual event.

The student design teams have succeeded despite a limited budget and resources, said Wilson. Now they will share a facility that includes engine and chassis dynamometers, machining equipment, storage, quality ventilation, heating and air conditioning, and office space.

Presenting the first installment of $40,000 (the total $120,000 will be given over three years) was James Woroniecki, senior vice president for DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, where numerous former Tennessee Tech engineering students have been employed. 

"Tennessee Technological University has a world-class engineering program," said Woroniecki, who is a board member of DENSO North America Foundation. "It is our honor to help take this program to the next level, assisting a nationally ranked faculty with a state-of-the-art complex for the automotive industry’s future generation of engineers."

The DENSO North America Foundation is the first North American charitable foundation established by a Japan-based automotive supplier. Funded by DENSO International America, Inc., the company’s North American headquarters in Southfield, Mich., the foundation provides grants to institutions of higher education with an emphasis on engineering, technology, and related business programs. 

"We take pride in supporting higher education," says John Voorhorst, president, DENSO North America Foundation. "Our financial support allows us to support DENSO’s worldwide mission of contributing to a better world by creating value together with a vision for the future."

Headquartered in Kariya, Aichi prefecture, Japan, DENSO employs 87,000 people in 30 countries with global consolidated sales of $18.1 billion. In North America, DENSO employs more than 14,000 people at 25 companies with consolidated sales of $4.7 billion. For two consecutive years, Industry Week magazine named DENSO Corporation one of the "100 Best Managed Companies in the World".

The Tennessee operations currently produce the following products: an array of electronic components, instrument clusters, alternators, starters, fuel injectors, oxygen sensors, air-flow meters, ignition coils, and spark plugs.

For more information about DENSO, including DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, visit or For information about the North America Foundation, visit the foundation’s website at