SEMA Scholarship Facilitates Community Building, Still Time to Apply

SEMA Scholarship Education Apply TodayBy Ellen McKoy

Amy Kurr knew little about cars, until she bought her first ride. The '86 Chevy Caprice Classic captured enthusiasts' attention in her suburban Minneapolis hometown, sparking her interest in vintage vehicles and the TLC it takes to maintain them.

"I was intrigued by the mechanical and chemical work that went into maintaining antique vehicles," said Kurr, whose passion for science dates to childhood experiments fabricating plastic bugs and candles with an Easy Bake Oven. Experience as a high school athlete and first responder furthered her understanding of safety risks caused by parts failures and polymer degradation. 

Those interests led to a Bachelor of Science degree in materials engineering at Iowa State and a Master of Science degree from Case Western. Now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, her research centers on engineering science and technology.

"My focus is on electrical cables, the impact of high temperatures on cables, the potential for degradation and the flammability aspects to ensure these components function properly with electrical vehicle batteries," she noted.

Although the university's corporate partnerships afford research access to various industries, including automotive, SEMA wasn't on Kurr's radar until an advisor suggested applying for a scholarship.

"I was surprised I hadn't heard about SEMA until grad school," said Kurr. "I was excited to receive the scholarship but more excited about attending the Show. I knew it would be beneficial."

An Immersive Experience

For starters, Kurr contacted Chris Standifer, SEMA project manager, recognition programs. He connected her to Scorpion EV's Karen Salvaggio, a member of the Emerging Trends & Technology Network (ETTN)

"Karen opened my mind. I learned about ETTN. She helped me connect with Luis [Morales] and Ben [Kaminsky] at the SEMA Garage. In October, Ben gave me a tour of the Detroit Garage, which helped me understand how SEMA helps the aftermarket."

At the Show, Kurr hit the ground running. From the SEMA Businesswomen's Network (SBN) Gear-Up Girl event and ETTN Lunch-N-Learn to EV-centric seminars, the Future Leaders Network (FLN) Reception and the SEMA Banquet, Kerr took advantage of every opportunity to network and engage.

"Everyone was supportive and welcoming," said Kurr. "The energy and passion were inspiring. Even before I went to the Show, I had a sense of community. Chris and the Student Program made sure we got connected.

"I would have applied for the scholarship even if it was just an invitation to the Show. The scholarship is free money, but the selling point is the networking and the contacts you make that far outweigh the dollar value. There are 160,00 people at the Show--you can find your people and make your own community."

Limited Time Remains to Apply for a SEMA Scholarship

The 2024 SEMA Scholarship application period for students pursuing careers in the automotive or performance parts industries closes this Friday, March 1, at The SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund supports career development and access to the automotive industry by offering financial awards of up to $5,000 to help foster the next generation of industry leaders and innovators.

For more information, including eligibility criteria and how to apply, visit prior to the Friday, March 1, deadline.