Auburn Engineering alumnus spearheads new Tesla facility in Texas

By Lauren Winton

Published: Mar 26, 2021 10:00:00 AM

David Stanley David Stanley

David Stanley, ’07 civil engineering, doesn’t just think big, he thinks Giga-big. As the lead structural engineer for the new Tesla Gigafactory in Texas, David has been hard at work to meet their aggressive development and production timeline.

“Our factory in China was able to go from breaking ground to producing our first car in 11 months, so speed is always a leading goal,” Stanley said.

The Texas team is well on their way. The new Tesla Gigafactory will be the world’s most advanced manufacturing facility when it opens – a feat which does not go unappreciated by Stanley.

“When designing the structure, we had to purposefully design it with the intention to change. It will need to serve a specific purpose on day one and day 1,001,” Stanley said. “Our team has to coordinate with experts in construction, architecture, utilities and production design, all while keeping the end user in mind. It has been an amazing challenge.”

The site for the Gigafactory is more than your average factory. Its infrastructure is truly “Giga,” covering several million square feet with the intention of growing in the future.

“Logistics are one of the biggest challenges,” Stanley said. “The factory will be as fast as its slowest part, so we had to keep that in mind with the design and execution of the project.”

With their goal in mind, the team has pressed forward during the pandemic to meet and exceed the construction timeline. To build a new Tesla Gigafactory means certain challenges. To do it during a global pandemic means something else.

“Through this pandemic our team has come together to work even harder. Everyone is behind this project, and when we all went remote, we focused all of our attention on getting this project completed. There have been some challenges, of course, but we grew as a team more than ever before,” Stanley said.

During this time, Stanley said that his family grew stronger as well. His daughter, Elizabeth, battled cancer in 2018. In 2020, Make-A-Wish helped 6-year-old Elizabeth make her wish come true by visiting Macy’s Fashion Office with her little sister Caitlin, 5, and her parents in New York City to design a new dress.Erin and David Stanley

“Elizabeth had the opportunity to design her own dress and run a fashion show,” said Stanley’s wife, Erin. “Even at 6, she’s a natural leader like her dad.”

Elizabeth is now in remission, having received her last treatment in April. And Stanley and his family have continued to focus on the positives.

“Life is all about who you surround yourself with. I am reminded of that each day,” Stanley said. “It’s a lesson I started to learn when I was at Auburn.”

At Auburn, Stanley had the opportunity to surround himself with fellow passionate future engineers. And he credits this community and foundation of support with his success.

“The community at Auburn is great, and it was one that pushed me to be better in my education and craft,” Stanley said. “I had great professors like Robert Barnes and Anton Schindler who were really engaged in their fields.”

Schindler, the Mountain Spirit Professor, made a particularly strong impact on Stanley, even after he had graduated from Auburn. He kept his senior project notes that he took in Schindler’s class.

“I remember the presentations Dr. Schindler would give. It was a great presentation on how to make a technical presentation,” Stanley said. “It was simple but clear advice. About seven or eight years after graduation, I remembered that presentation, and I wanted to give it to some of my team. I emailed Dr. Schindler, asking if he could share it with me, but he told me – in the nicest way – to make my own.”

Stanley said the lessons he learned from Auburn both inside and outside of the classroom have stayed with him. Auburn was a launching point for one big civil engineering career and a lesson in staying rooted in a foundation of good community and “a spirit that is not afraid.”

Media Contact: Lauren Winton, lmw0090@auburn.edu, 334.844.5519

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