Traction Summit 2018 | Speaker Preview

Meet a few of this year's confirmed speakers for Traction Summit 2018 

  • Chris Coker

    Senior Program Manager Altair

    Chris Coker has been involved in vehicle dynamics simulation starting with his graduate studies at Texas A&M.  Since joining Altair Engineering in 1992, he’s worked on helping customers simulate, design, build, and test a variety of vehicles, ranging from golf-carts, race cars, aircraft, military vehicles, to 500 ton mining trucks.

    Altair is a product design and development, engineering software and cloud computing software company, founded in 1985, with its headquarters in Troy, Michigan, and offices worldwide.


  • Dr. Aaron Franklin

    Chief Technology Officer Tyrata, Inc

    Dr. Aaron Franklin is Chief Technology Officer at Tyrata, Inc and an Associate Professor in the Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Chemistry at Duke University. After spending six years on the research staff at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY, he joined the faculty at Duke in 2014. He is most widely known for his work on low-dimensional nanoelectronics with specific emphasis on 1D (carbon nanotube, CNT) and 2D transistors, including device scaling, transport studies, and advanced integration approaches, such as printing. The primary drive of Dr. Franklin’s research is to improve performance or function in electronic devices using nanomaterials. Tyrata’s printed tread wear sensing technology was invented in the Franklin lab through the study of printed CNT electronics.

    Dr. Franklin received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in 2008 and his bachelor’s degree, also in Electrical Engineering, from Arizona State University in 2004. He is a prolific scientific contributor and inventor, with more than 60 publications and holding 50 issued patents

  • Dennis Melka

    Co-Founder and President AutoAppClub

    Mr Dennis Melka is the Co-Founder and President of AutoAppClub, a highly disruptive platform for on-demand mobile car care which has announced partnerships with leading Asian fleet operators such as Hertz and car sharing platforms such as SoCar ( Since 2006, he has co-founded and launched companies in agriculture, consumer finance, hotels, sustainable forestry and telecommunications.  Previously, Mr Melka was an investment banker with Credit Suisse First Boston from 1995 to 2005.  Mr Melka graduated magna cum laude from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University in Washington D.C. 


  • Aaron Neumann

    Section Manager of Product Development Nexen Tire

    Aaron Neumann is the Section Manager of Product Development for Nexen Tire at their America Technical Center in Richfield, Ohio.  He has oversight of both RE and OE tire development for the North American market and is part of Nexen’s Future Tire team.  He has been in the tire industry for 19 years, with past experience in both tire testing and design.  Aaron has worked in both North America and Europe, with past employers including Kumho, Bridgestone/Firestone, and Nevada Automotive Test Center.  He holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University.

  • Dr. James A. Popio

    Vice President of Operations - North America Smithers Rapra

    Dr. James A. Popio is Vice President of Operations -  North America of Smithers Rapra and Smithers Pira in the United States. Prior to this he was Vice President and General Manager of Smithers Rapra and Smithers Pira in the United Kingdom; and before that he was General Manager and Director of Engineering at Smithers Rapras’ Ravenna Laboratory in Ohio. 

    Jim has worked with the tire and rubber industry for 20 years and has spent his professional career working for and/or with tire companies, tire dealers, automotive OEMs, industry suppliers, manufacturers, standards organisations and government agencies.  

    Jim has extensive experience in tire performance, characterisation, and methods development. His specialist areas of expertise are force and moment, endurance, aging, compliance, indoor wear, rolling resistance, and characterisation for modeling. Jim is a regular contributor to industry journals as well as a chair and speaker at major tire and rubber conferences. 

  • Kevin Rohlwing

    Senior Vice President of Training Tire Industry Association

    Kevin Rohlwing, Senior Vice President of Training with the Tire Industry Association has extensive knowledge regarding the legal expectations of training and the value of formal training programs and certifications.  He started in the tire business more than 32 years ago as a technician in his family’s dealership in Elgin, Illinois, where he also worked as a salesman and service manager.

    In 1996, he joined the International Tire and Rubber Association (ITRA), the predecessor of TIA, as the Director of Commercial Tire Service. Kevin created and produced the Association’s training and certification programs that have educated more than 90,000 technicians since 1997.

    In 2011, he was awarded the Silver Spark Plug for excellence in fleet maintenance from the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Assns.

  • Jay Spears

    Director of Standards and Regulation, The Americas Continental Tire

    Jay is the Director of Standards and Regulations for Continental Tire, the Americas located in Fort Mill, SC.  He is responsible for all tire regulatory and standardization work throughout North and South America and represents Continental within numerous industry organizations including the Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Tire and Rim Association.  Jay has been with Continental for over 15 years with leadership roles in product development, technical product management and racing development.  He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineer from Clemson University - home of the 2016 College Football National Champions.