I recently had the opportunity to sit in on an ACP (Accelerated Certification Program) course at EFI University in Temecula, California. While there, I chatted with Ben Strader, founder and owner, about what sets EFI University apart and makes it different from other models of its kind. He explained that facilities, equipment and structure are the distinguishing elements his EFI learning center provides.
“This is a place where someone can come who really wants to learn how to do this but doesn’t want to experiment on his own car and blow it up,” Strader said. “So where else can you go and have access to different types of ECUs and different vehicles and different dynamometers in a structured environment with an actual professional tuner to look over your shoulder and say, ‘Hey, I’ve made that mistake you’re about to make so don’t do that, and here’s why.’”
Another strong point is its diversity. “We’ve specifically taken this class on the road and have taught in about nine different countries. But every class that we have here, we’ll have people from all over the 50 states, from Canada, Mexico, all over the Middle East and Asia, Australia,” Strader stated. “That is kind of challenging for us, but I also feel like that’s our strong point. We are really good with our communication skills and making sure nobody leaves here not knowing what we were talking about.”
In addition, students leave with multiple avenues of follow-up support, including the instructor’s contact information, online student forums and the ability to contact manufacturers reps for specific types of ECUs.
I attended one of the more advanced classes, but EFI University caters to all skill levels—novice, advanced and everything in between—by offering a variety of classes, including EFI 101, EFI 102, EFI Advanced, ACP and more. “The instructor will stand up there and talk about fairly complex material at a level that, if you have an engineer in the class he’s not getting bored, but if you have a guy who’s just out of high school, he’s not totally blown away and lost and doesn’t get any value out of it,” Strader explained.
In the novice courses or weekend seminars, there may be 20–30 students in a class, but the amount of information they get is slightly less because there’s less time with more people. But in the advanced classes, “we really want to maximize the amount of time that each student could spend with the instructor, both in the classroom and on the vehicle.” So in my ACP class, for example, six students was the limit (two per dyno).
I observed the class figuring out which numbers to put into the engine map on the computer to get the highest performance out of the vehicle, and also how they came up with those numbers through mathematical equations and calculations.
Afterward, students got to apply the skills they learned in the classroom by tuning different types of cars in the shop that were set up on a variety of dynos. I even got into the driver’s seat to participate in the engine tuning process as well.
Strader also explained, “I think a lot of people walk in the door thinking that engine calibration/engine mapping/engine tuning is a black magic, that it’s some secretive art form that only a few racers get to know, and a lot of racers do try to propagate that myth. But I think what they’re coming here for is that search for the truth, and what they find out is that everything that we do and everything that we teach here is based on math and science. You can explain it, you can prove it on a calculator, and then we take it out of the classroom and into the shop with a car on the dyno, and the math works.
“Part of it is the classroom and getting the information and notes and studying and doing the homework, but if you can’t actually take that out and do practical application and physically use it, then the learning curve isn’t as strong.
“So what’s different about us are the facilities and the structure—the ability to have an actual predetermined learning environment so you don’t get yourself in trouble—and it’s an actual learning institution set up specifically for you to be hands-on. If you look at what we have to offer, you can’t get that anywhere else.”
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