Keyes is the president of Purdue Solar Racing, a highly decorated student-led engineering team at Purdue University that is quite literally building the future.
Keyes and a team of 35 engineering students are among the top teams competing in the Shell Eco Marathon, an annual competition in which student teams from around the world compete to design, build, and test ultra-energy-efficient vehicles.
Founded in the early ‘90s, the Purdue Solar Racing team has built nine solar powered racing vehicles to date. After winning the last six Shell Eco Marathon races, the Purdue Solar Racing team has its eye on a new prize: the American Solar Challenge, a 1,200- to 1,800-mile course which takes approximately a week and a half to complete.
For the Purdue Solar team, designing and building each vehicle represents a massive undertaking, with the average vehicle taking two years to build and involving as many as 50 team members.
Until recently, Purdue Solar managed this highly complex project using Microsoft Project, which worked well enough with a smaller team. However, as the team grew in size and the project expanded in scope, relying on conventional Gantt bars to map out a two-year schedule quickly became unwieldy. Moreover, since the team is constantly pushing the envelope with new engineering concepts, there is naturally a significant amount of uncertainty in the plan which traditional tools like Microsoft Project are ill equipped to deal with since they force teams to estimate their tasks in rigid single point blocks of time.