ECOLIBRIUM LAB MANAGER BRINGS RACING SPIRIT TO UNIRAC TEAM

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The Ecolibrium Solar team—now working alongside Unirac as part of the recent acquisition—brings a depth of great new talent.

Take Lab Manager Gary Norman, for instance. He’s a born gearhead—literally.

“My family drag-raced,” he said, “and my mother’s water broke with me at the racetrack. She had to go to the stage lanes to get my dad in the tow truck to go to the hospital. The following weekend, we were back at the track.”

With that beginning, he grew up in Florida working in the family racing fabrication shop, which prepared him for the huge variety of jobs that come up in his current position in Boulder.

*One of the race cars Norman built and drove—a 1980 Malibu Super Stock 454 C.I., which turned a 9.68-second quarter-mile at 136.76 mph.

“It was basically a competition between me and my dad,” he said. “We’d come up with an idea and then try to one-up each other with ‘what if we tried this?’ or ‘what if we tried that?’ We built three cars of our own, and nothing is really off the shelf when you do that. Everything has to be made or adapted.” His father bought a lathe and a mill, and they worked on machine blocks, valves, chassis, body work and painting, upholstery, to name a few.

As a result, it makes sense when Norman describes his role as Lab Manager as “a very loose title—I’m the maintenance guy, the fab guy, the welder – the ‘can you fix this?’ guy.”

It’s something Norman has always loved. “I started doing models at five,” he explained. “Anything I could build or touch or make, I did.” He was the head assembler at a pneumatic cylinder company and was getting restless, so he and his wife, their young daughter, and their dog and cat traveled the country for his wife’s nursing job, spending several months each in cities they thought they might like to live in. They traveled from New York to Washington State. Ultimately, they chose Boulder, and Norman joined Ecolibrium four years ago, around the time his daughter started kindergarten.

After joining with the company to assist with production on a project, he was eventually asked to stay at Ecolibrium. Soon, Norman discovered a passion and a talent for prototyping and design.

“Testing is the bread and butter, but I really like it when the apps team brings a problem,” he says. “I like trying to solve it.”

Norman said the concepts for three of the company’s upcoming releases were his.

*Before and after: Norman gave one of the forklifts the Ecolibrium livery.

“Jonah told me a year or so ago about what he was looking for,” Norman said. “And I’d start thinking about it and making something and he would say, ‘No, not like that’ or ‘I like that.’” Pretty soon the team had working prototypes that are translating into production as a direct result of Jonah Coles and Norman’s work. Coles is part of Ecolibrium’s Product Solutions team.

Coles calls Norman an “amazing fabricator,” and Sam Veague, former CEO of Ecolibrium, sums him up this way: “If you have an idea, Gary can make it!”

Since moving to Boulder, Norman hasn’t been racing hands-on anymore, but he and a cousin do meet up for a NASCAR race each year. It’s a tradition he said might have to give way this year for Covid—though they haven’t given up quite yet and are still holding out hope to attend.

He’s plenty busy, though. Last year, he and his wife had another baby—a son—and he says his job offers continuous challenges. UL testing is another big part of what he does, including mechanical load testing for new modules. Conducting the quick-turnaround tests and tracking the data generated require constant problem-solving.

According to Norman, this variety makes it the best job he’s ever had.

“I don’t mind getting up and going to work every day,” he said. “Besides working at a NASCAR race shop, this would be the next best thing. If I can find the best way—the neatest way—to fix something, I’m very happy. There’s a shirt my wife saw that she swears she’ll get me. It has ‘fabricator’ spelled out like in the dictionary with the pronunciation and under it, it says, ‘I build stuff you can’t.’”