An engineer searches for ways to make machines lighter and quicker.
Hans deBot '93 spends his days searching for speed. He works at his Mooresville, N.C. company, deBotech Inc., finding ways to make everything from race boats to military planes go faster with the use of carbon fiber material. So it's a bit odd that his best thinking comes when he is stationary. "Ninety-nine percent of the time when I solve things, I think about them when I put my head on my pillow," he says. " I tend to do my best problem-solving before I go to sleep."
Such is the creative process for deBot, a mechanical engineer who grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C., as the son of an immigrant father from Holland. deBot fell in love with tinkering as his dad taught him electrical work, plumbing, brick-laying and any other trade that could make him self-sufficient. "I converted our house to an electric heater when I was 12," he says.
deBot knew early on that he wanted to study engineering in college, which he did while moon-lighting at Raleigh's Fish Pros Aquarium Shop, where he designed filtration systems. A week after graduation, he was in Munich, Germany, working for a company that designed plastics and PVC. He was back in North Carolina a year later and started working at a company producing sailboat parts. But deBot saw that he could excel on his own and started building parts for Hendrick Motor-sports out of his own garage. That led him to a relationship with NASCAR that allowed him to start deBotech in 1998.
deBotech has grown into one of the leading carbon fiber outfitters in the country. deBot and his 20 employees use the lightweight material to build race cars and airplanes and to work on aerospace engineering projects. But when you ask deBot about his most invigorating project, he doesn't hesitate. "Its pretty hard not to pay notice to the Olympics," he says. The company's relationship with U.S. Olympic bobsledding began in 2002, when deBot built a bobsled out of carbon fiber rather that the heavier laminated glass and Kevlar that had been used to build the sleds for years. That led to the design of the Night Train 1, the bobsled that in 2010 Vancouver, Canada, captured the first Olympic gold medal for a U.S., four-man team since 1948. And deBotech's work was on display in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, where the bobsleds and skeleton sleds the company helped build took home medals in multiple events.