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Love of cars fuels career goals

Squillace brothers standing by car
As young boys, Nick and Skylar Squillace, ’15, had much more in common than their identical twin looks. They also shared a love of fast cars — and for building things.

So it’s not surprising that the brothers chose to major in mechanical engineering when they enrolled at the University of North Florida and joined the Osprey Racing club in their junior year.
It was there in the club’s student-run lab that they found their passion, and their career paths started to take shape.

Two years later they would cross the finish line, landing their dream jobs — designing and building parts for prototype race cars. Yet, they never imagined that the same company would hire them both.

Squillace brothers at Daytona International SpeedwayIn the fall of 2016, Nick and Skylar were hired within weeks of one another by Riley Technologies, which specializes in the design, manufacture and assembly of Le Mans prototype racing cars from its headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina. Skylar is a design engineer who creates the prints that are sent to the manufacturing department, where Nick programs machines to create components for the cars.

“One of our dreams was to just get started in any type of racing, but Riley Technologies is a major player with 10 Rolex 24 race-winning chassis,” Skylar said. “We are thrilled to be there.”

Both credit the job skills they have developed to UNF and its Osprey Racing club, a chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers. Each year, club members design and construct a single-seat, open-wheel race car, known as Formula SAE, and compete at Michigan International Speedway against about 120 collegiate teams. For both Nick and Skylar, having the chance to get their hands dirty and make the leap from classroom theory to real-world application accelerated their learning and built confidence. “When we weren’t in class or practicing with the track team, we were working on the car,” Skylar said, explaining that both competed on UNF’s track and field team. “We didn’t sleep much.”

“And as soon as you get back from the competition in May, you start on the new car,” Nick said. “So it all begins again. And much of what we needed — like suspension, chassis, ergonomics and power train design — we had to research on our own and attend seminars to have a better understanding of race car vehicle dynamics.”

In addition to independent learning, Nick and Skylar, as club co-captains their senior year, networked with industry professionals to gain valuable sponsorships and organized the sourcing of materials used for building the car.

Assistant Professor John Nuszkowski, the club’s faculty advisor since 2011, can attest to the young men’s motivation and determination. From the beginning, they tackled and completed tough jobs and kept right on helping, doing more and more to move the project forward.

“You could find them in the lab all the time,” he said. “They took the team to another level.” Nuszkowski explained that Nick and Skylar would teach themselves and become experts on something that no one else knew. For example, the lab has machining tools that are programmed for use in manufacturing, so the two taught themselves and then proceeded to train other club members. “We are still using the training sequence that they started for many things at the lab,” Nuszkowski said. “I have no doubt that they both will do well.”

In January, the young engineers had the opportunity to travel back to Northeast Florida for the Rolex 24 at the Daytona International Speedway, the very place they had handed out resumes a year prior in the hopes of finding work. Both agreed it was a special moment to watch professional teams racing Riley Technology-built cars at Daytona — with parts they had helped build.

“It is exciting to see a car you have helped create race against world-class competition in such a historic event,” Skylar said.