CPHS grad zooms toward career in electric car design

Nicolas Villanueva

Clover Park High School graduate Nicolas Villanueva stands with an electric formula-style race car he helped build at the University of Washington. Photo credit: Sara Villanueva

University of Washington senior Nicolas Villanueva is well on his way to fulfilling a dream of working on electric cars for a living. Villanueva is part of the “UW Formula Motorsports” team that builds and races gasoline and electric formula-style race cars around the world. The team competed in Lincoln, Neb. and Germany and is ranked sixth in the world. Villanueva started his university career as a mechanical engineering student but changed his major to electrical engineering because of his interest in electric cars.

Villanueva attended Clover Park High School (CPHS). His father is a Clover Park School District bus driver and his mother works for Tacoma Power. Villanueva said the high school has an excellent electrical engineering program. He said his classes provided a great introduction to electrical engineering that included drafting and 3D modeling. Villanueva wasn’t excelling in school until his math teacher told him he was a smart kid and should be trying harder.

“It made me realize there’s more I could be doing with my time,” said Villanueva. “Because of him and other teachers, like Gordon Winter, I graduated as valedictorian of my CPHS senior class.”

Villanueva said it’s important to study hard in school but it’s just as important to be a well-rounded, self-motivating person. Villanueva was involved with track, tae kwon do, cross country, swimming, marching band, jazz band and robotics while at CPHS. He was also a University of Washington Minority Scholars Engineering Program ALVA intern. After graduation, he would love to work for Tesla Motors, the premium electric car company.

In October, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction adopted new science standards that will provide consistent science education through all grades, with an emphasis on engineering and technology. The standards should help students get more excited about science and technology.

“Engineering is one of my passions in life. I would love to see more students pursuing a degree in engineering. Being able to work on formula race cars is a lot of fun!”