INDIANAPOLIS — Kirk Barber and his family have always loved racing. So much that they supplanted themselves from the west coast to Brownsburg in the midst of Kirk’s high school career.
Apparently it has paid off, because the American Society for Engineering Education recently named the 2008 Brownsburg High School graduate with its Intern of the Year award for his work at Allison Transmission Inc.
Barber, 23, will graduate in May from IUPUI with degrees in mechanical engineering and motorsports engineering and then be on the move again. His family maintains roots in Brownsburg with his older brother Chase, 25, racing on the USAC midget series.
“I grew up in California,” Barber said. “My family’s always been pretty big into racing and I was told it was pretty much the place to be, Brownsburg.”
The family moved to Brownsburg during Barber’s junior year.
“My brother wanted to become a professional race car driver and I was his main mechanic,” he said. “We also knew that it was a lot easier to start my career and go to school out here.”
Barber, who himself had been racing since the age of 7, said he a lifestyle here that pushed him.
“Something I tell people is, (BHS) really got my butt in gear,” he laughed. “I don’t think that without graduating from Brownsburg I would have been as successful as if I had graduated in California.
“I kind of relay it to a treadmill. In California, it was a treadmill on walking pace, but up here it was a sprint. I went from an easy high school to one where I actually had to study for tests. The biggest thing I noticed was, when you met with a guidance counselor here they’d ask me what I was planning on doing when I graduated. They asked about my future. In California, you never met with your guidance counselor and if you did, they were only concerned about you getting out of school, not what happened when you’re out.”
Barber said he’s thankful for the opportunities he’s had here.
“I don’t know what the secret mixture is, but a lot of what I try to do is hard work,” he said. “I was in pretty desperate need of a summer internship and work. I felt like I owe (executive director of off-highway and hybrid operations) Bill Klenk and Allison something for that opportunity to bring me in. I really wanted to prove to the people that believed in me that I could fulfill what they wanted.”
Barber said the IUPUI programs have benefited him in ways that go far beyond working in motorsports.
“It’s really been more beneficial than just learning about motorsports and racing,” he said. “The hands-on practical knowledge has been invaluable to me. Even though the education was for motorsports or for racing, it’s come in handy in other places in life. It teaches you practicality.”
Klenk agrees, writing to the American Society for Engineering Education, “Kirk is very capable and can achieve anything he sets out to do. Allison Transmission has had good students in the past, but Kirk stands out among other interns.”
With that, life has taken an unexpected and happy turn for Barber, as he now plans to chase new dreams after graduation that have nothing to do with racing.
“Motorsports was where I wanted to work, but it’s a lot of travel and I didn’t plan on meeting someone and getting engaged originally,” he said of his fiancé Samantha Stone. “I want to settle down and take life a different route. But I’ll always be involved in racing and our family will always have cars here. It’s in my blood and it’ll always be a passion of mine.”
For now though, Barber plans on moving to Ohio and working near Stone as a field application engineer at Bastian Solutions.
“The (Intern of the Year) award was one of those where you apply and just hope for the best but never get your hopes up, because you don’t want to get your heart broken,” he said. “But it was kind of the cherry on top of my college career. I feel like I’ve worked pretty hard the last five years, but to get a national award was a good roundup.”