National Engineers Week Profile Meet Lenworth Woolcock: Engineer and Motorsports Buff

Lenworth with his wife, Madhu.

Math was easier for Lenworth Woolcock than all the other subjects in school, and so was science. To him, it just made sense to go into engineering.

“Everything I enjoyed doing would be supported by things I would learn,” Lenworth said. “I’m into motorsports. I do autocross, which is the cheapest form of motorsports. I began working with cars in college, but I had no money. I got back into it five years ago, and now that I have a Miata, I’m getting more serious. My car is modified almost up to the street touring class limit.”

A typical autocross race, Lenworth explained, includes about 200 people gathered in a parking lot. A course is set up with cones, and the goal is to get through the course as fast as you can. “It’s one car on the course at a time, and it is timed,” he said. “There’s no risk of hurting anything. It’s an easy way to do what you like doing safely and inexpensively. I drive a Mazda Miata, and that’s pretty much the car to have. From the beginning, Mazda made something that is awesome—it’s cheap, reliable, and it does everything you need it to do.”

Lenworth Woolcock racing his modified Mazda Miata.

“I’ve been listening to podcasts about autocross, and heard that most people that do this are in engineering or technical fields,” he said. “It makes sense. Understanding driving dynamics, or what the car does and why, and trying to adjust that, and working on what you, as the driver, are doing lends itself to trial and error, which is what engineers do. And it’s never ending. How deeply you want to get into it is up to you. I’ve had a local class win at FedEx field in Landover, MD; my goal is to make it to a national event. That would be cool.”

Originally considering mechanical engineering at Florida International University, Lenworth changed his mind, saying, “I followed the old advice not to make my hobby my job.” His father was an electrician, and Lenworth helped his dad on the weekends so he switched to electrical engineering.

Following his graduation in 2007, Lenworth worked as a patent examiner prior to becoming an FAA contractor supporting AJI-31, the Safety Management Group, working on the ATO Safety Management System. He then was hired by FAA’s Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service as a federal employee where he worked until two years ago before rejoining AJI-31 as a General Engineer. He’s currently on detail as Acting Manager of AJI-3130, the Safety Performance Monitoring Team.

Engineering taught me problem-solving skills.

“It helped me understand how other people do the safety analysis, and how they get the information, and how you test it. Every engineer asks why. You don’t just take what you get and go with it. We have to understand why something happens to get to the right decisions. I think my greatest strength is consistently asking why are we doing this, and why does it matter? Is this something we need to focus on to get to the outcome we’re looking for?”

In the short-term, Lenworth’s career goal is to “improve my people skills, supervisory skills, management skills, and try to succeed at any opportunity I get. I’m pretty reserved and have to work on that aspect of my personality.”

If there were no limitations, Lenworth aspires to work with control systems. “Every engineer thinks about what could I build that isn’t out there yet? I’d like to find a need, find something to do for my car, and then see if it turns out to be something of interest to others.”

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