Getting Rid of the Drag
Andrew Smith ’90
When Andrew Smith was in sixth grade at GUS, his friend and classmate Evan Cross gave him a copy of Car and Driver magazine. It wasn’t long before Andrew became obsessed with sports cars. One might say that Lamborghinis, Porsches, and Ferraris fueled his imagination. In fact, Andrew recalls creating multiple sixth grade projects and book reports about sports cars.
Then seventh grade science teacher Marti Di Anguera took the metaphorical air out of Andrew’s tires. Fast cars did not get good fuel mileage and were bad for the environment, she told him. Initially a bit crestfallen, Andrew absorbed this information and turned his attention from Lamborghinis to the challenges of making technology more responsible to the planet. His interest in the environment really wasn’t something new. “Growing up, I was always very much focused on the outdoors,” he recalls. “I spent time with my family in the White Mountains and at Squam Lake in New Hampshire.” At GUS, Andrew and his friends also spent plenty of time outside. “We always went off the soccer fields and into the marshes to explore.”
Graduating from Pingree School in 1994, Andrew went on to major in physics at Middlebury College because he “wanted to understand the science behind green technology - solar power, fuel cells, electric cars, etcetera.” During his college summers, he managed an electric vehicle demonstration project at the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources, and during his junior year abroad he had an internship at the International Institute for Energy Conservation in Santiago, Chile.
Andrew understood early the importance of combining business skills with environmental sustainability goals. After graduation, he took a position with a private consulting firm and did economic development work in 10 countries, spending time in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia. He then attended Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College to earn an MBA, already committed to the idea of starting a green technology company.
A few months into his MBA program, Andrew launched ATDynamics, Inc., committed to the task of improving the aerodynamics of semi-trailers used to ship freight worldwide. Andrew and his colleagues invented TrailerTails®, an innovative and ingenious device to improve fuel economy by reducing the aerodynamic drag generated at the rear of semi-trailers. The drag occurs because of the low pressure turbulence created by the squared-off back of the tractor-trailer. TrailerTails are bolted behind the trailer, tapering inward to the rear and collapsing automatically when truckers swing the doors open to access their cargo. Studies show that TrailerTails can improve truck fuel economy by over five percent at 65 mph. More than 50,000 TrailerTails are now on the road, circulating on the country’s long-distance freight corridors. If all two million long-haul semi-trailers in America had TrailerTails, the industry could save almost two billion dollars of diesel fuel and seven million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. To see how TrailerTails work, view a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDlbLGs__-U .
In 2015, Andrew sold ATDynamics to Stemco, a large truck and trailer supplier. Which leaves him, as he likes to joke, currently unemployed, except that he advises a number of cleantech companies (cleantech being the new buzz word for green technology companies), is working on a new start-up company focused on autonomous zero-emission freight transportation, and is writing a book about the entrepreneurial experience of building ATDynamics.
Andrew believes more than ever in the opportunity for business to be a positive force in saving the environment. “I think that the greatest business opportunity of our generation is to redefine how we live - all aspects of how we live - in a more sustainable way,” he says. “It’s a fantastic career opportunity - to create and promote cleaner transportation, recyclable materials, more sustainable construction materials, renewable energy, safer food production, expanded wildlife areas...every aspect of our society is ripe for innovation.”
Looking back, Andrew values his years at GUS for many reasons. “In retrospect, my GUS education was cutting edge at the time, and other institutions are trying to follow the model now,” he believes. “I learned so much in the intimate learning environment of GUS. I have memories of almost every activity and project we did. I loved building a boat out of egg cartons with Lindsay Pearce (’89) in first grade, building a Native American longhouse in second grade, constructing a rain forest where we covered the walls with animal and plant cut-outs, going to Mystic Seaport in fourth grade, and on and on. I loved having access to both sports fields and marshes. I learned fundamental concepts at GUS that have stuck with me throughout my life. When I think about what I want for my children’s education, it is to replicate the experience I had at GUS - which means searching for a school like GUS or moving back to the North Shore.” Since Andrew and his wife, Emily, and their three small children, Ryan (1), Lily (3), and Kyle (5), just moved from California to Chattanooga, Tennessee, GUS may prove a long commute in the near term. Andrew does, however, plan to come visit school this winter. Like so many GUS alums, he stays in touch with many of his old classmates too.
So what does Andrew think about sports cars these days? “Tesla fulfills my elementary school dream! Anyone would be crazy to buy a Porsche, Lamborghini or Ferrari with Teslas now available.” For those who don’t read Car and Driver, the Tesla X SUV, which can go 0-60 in 3.2 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph, is all electrically-powered. Even GUS science teachers could approve of that!