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Eric Koster's Death Leaves Void in Engineering College: 'He Really Loved Working with Our Students'

As another school year starts in the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, faculty and staff in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering are sad about the void among their ranks.

Eric Koster, the Old Dominion University director of motorsports, died last month of cancer. He was 59.

Bob Ash, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at ODU, said Koster's passing is a huge loss to the entire college.

"In 1999, Eric responded to a help wanted ad to work at the Langley Full Scale Wind Tunnel, and when he interviewed with Jim Cross and Bill Swart, they hired him on the spot," Ash said.

"During Eric's shortened life, he drove race cars, built race cars and specialized in building racing engines. When he joined the ODU wind tunnel staff, he brought a level of motorsports racing knowledge and enthusiasm that was contagious. He also found out that he really loved working with our students."

The ODU Research Foundation hired Koster in 1999 as director of motorsports operations and marketing for the Langley Full Scale Tunnel at Langley Air Force Base. He laid the foundation for ODU to build and operate a rolling road wind tunnel in Southside Virginia. He also made significant contributions to the vision for and development of the Virginia Motorsport Technology Park, bringing university research to the commercial sector.

"Eric had a passion and dedication to student projects and motorsports academics in general," Ash said. "He was a major factor in defining the graduate degree content in motorsports engineering and in our recruiting efforts."

Ash said Koster's biggest contribution was in support of the Society of Automotive Engineers competitions, which ODU teams of engineering students have entered across North America. Koster was also pivotal in the effort to bring a Formula SAE student competition to Virginia International Raceway (VIR).

"He was often the sole source of encouragement and technical support, not to mention the substantial contributions of time and money he made to our program. He personally sustained that activity for many years with little credit," Ash said.

A byproduct of Koster's work as director of motorsports is the relationship ODU enjoys with the VIR in Danville.

"Through his work, ODU now operates a chassis dynamometer laboratory at the VIR track and our motorsports engineering students are able to test their projects on that track," Ash said.

Efforts are continuing to incorporate the university's rolling road system into a world-class wind tunnel, now that the Langley Full Scale Tunnel has been decommissioned.

"It was only through Eric's efforts that ODU was able to acquire this pivotal state-of-the-art piece of testing equipment, positioning us to sustain a national leadership role in ground vehicle aerodynamics," Ash said.

Koster is survived by two daughters and their families, two sisters and five grandchildren.

This article was posted on: September 14, 2010

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