“For retired Arlington businessman Arnold Petsche, friendship with University of Texas at Arlington professor Bob Woods is worth at least $1 million. His pledge to the College of Engineering for a new automotive engineering center that will bear his name proves it.”
That was the lead sentence in a front-page article of the Arlington Citizen-Journal for October 3, 2012. The article gives some background on the 25 year-old friendship between Petsche and Woods and describes some of the features of the new automotive engineering center to be built at UTA But to the Frederick reader, the primary interest of the article is in Dr. Bob Woods, born in Frederick in 1945 to Aldon and Gwen Cole Woods, and graduating from Frederick High School in 1963. Woods tested at the genius level in high school, then began to leverage his potential by earning his Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, followed by his Master’s degree and his PhD from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. He has taught mechanical engineering at the University of Texas in Arlington since 1974.
Throughout his career, Woods has pushed the boundaries of engineering. Currently, he is working on a project funded by a major American engineering firm to develop an all-electric off-road vehicle by 2014. He was among the first in the world to build a prototype of a hybrid gasoline/electric car in the 1990s. He has consulted with businesses and engineering firms all over the world. He has written textbooks that are used in leading schools of engineering. And his senior project class that brings together the best of UTA’s engineering students to build a race car that pushes the limits of engineering innovation has become legendary. These students, who have come from all over the world to study with Dr. Woods, compete, under his direction, in car races both nationally and internationally, and have won the national competition of the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers multiple times. More than once, he has been named outstanding professor in all disciplines at U.T.A., and two years ago he was designated by the city of Arlington, an Outlier…one who has pushed the boundaries of his profession and expanded its capability and knowledge.
It was this Outlier designation that prompted an invitation to Dr. Woods to return to Frederick High School and address the student body on the topic of success. His visit sparked the establishment of a weekly discussion group for Frederick high school students, designed to develop their skills in critical thinking.
Now, Dr. Woods is again helping to organize a program of engineering projects for Frederick High School, which taps into the student’s creativity and problem-solving skills, and identifies for the student a possible career path toward engineering. Recently, in a conversation between two of his high school classmates, one said, “Bob’s becoming a legend, isn’t he?” And the other replied, “I think so.”