By Emily McCarthy
Janet Gbur, adjunct professor of mechanical engineering at Youngstown State University, partnered with Martino Motorsports to bring a unique lecture experience to her classroom.
Gbur has known the Martino family since she was young and has a background in drag racing.
The lecture is for her engineering materials class, which she said is “the one course that — even if you’re not in mechanical engineering — is a good course to provide a foundation for all of the other engineering disciplines as well.”
“I grew up in drag racing,” she said. “I wanted to have some kind of experience that I knew students would be able to relate to. Most people can relate to either owning a car or basic car maintenance. There is a lot of different materials that go into the car … I wanted somebody who could bring an interesting perspective, something that maybe students are so aware of.”
Gbur decided a guest speaker may be a more engaging way to teach students about things like basic material properties. In the past, she has hosted a variety of other speakers and said she tries to find speakers from other companies, national labs and other entities to teach students from their professional backgrounds.
“When I started teaching at Youngstown State, I wanted to bring something a little bit different to the classroom, because from a students perspective, if you sit there and listen to a lecture for 75 minutes … they’re not really engaged,” she said. “I wanted to find a way to bring the classroom a little more to life rather than just listening to me, and I thought one way I could do that and to connect to the community is guest lecturers.”
Ryan Martino, a 2004 graduate of YSU’s fashion merchandising and marketing program and longtime friend of Gbur, is the speaker from Martino Motorsports. The Youngstown-headquartered company was started by his father who started by racing cars locally at 16 years old.
“Youngstown State, I have never really lost the connection with them,” he said. “Dr. Gbur, I actually grew up with her at the race track … we reconnected four or five years ago and she asked if we had any interest in coming along. She usually brings four or five guest speakers to her class per year and I was fortunate enough to be asked by her to join one year.”
After a couple semesters, Martino said the lectures had become a routine part of his schedule. During the pandemic last year, he said these lectures went through many changes and actually allowed for an entirely new experience.
“We were actually teaching class right from the garage where we were able to show the students hands-on by video of where everything goes,” he said. “In the classroom you can show pictures and videos and bring certain parts of the car, but it is actually pretty cool to actually be able to go from one end of the car to the other and actually show the students what was going on.”
Martino said it’s great to give back to the people that gave him success and he gives the university full credit for his own success. He also said he feels like he can relate to the students since he was once in their place and believes education opens doors for students.