In recent years, there have been plenty of talk and buzz about industry experience and equipping students with hands-on knowledge in the higher education landscape. But are universities really doing so?
One university that’s really talking the talk and walking the walk is Clemson University in South Carolina, USA.
At the Department of Automotive Engineering, which falls under the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), a one-of-a-kind educational experience is being offered that immerses automotive engineering students in hands-on learning from the get-go.
Students work collaboratively with faculty and participating industry partners to produce a brand-new vehicle prototype every year under the Deep Orange programme, where they receive a graduate qualification while doing impactful work in the exciting and thriving field of automotive engineering.
Students earn first-hand knowledge on how to think creatively to solve global challenges in the field while developing innovations that shape the future of the industry with sustainability, durability and performance in mind.
Deep Orange projects incorporate breakthrough products, innovations and new processes in automotive engineering, exposing students to the latest industry trends and technologies so they will be ahead of the curve when they graduate.
Hands-on learning while developing important soft skills
The accelerated concept development programme is a two-year Master’s programme for automotive engineering students who work on Deep Orange projects – a framework that prepares students for the real world by having them work directly with suppliers and vehicle manufacturers in the future.
Not only does this programme accelerate students’ careers with extensive hands-on knowledge in automotive engineering, it also equips them with soft skills such as project management, teamwork, resilience, and leadership.
This positions students to be capable, highly valuable employees who think innovatively and can work effectively in real-world engineering environments.
Students learn through practical applications of automotive engineering knowledge, working on vehicle design, engineering, prototyping and production from the very start of the academic programme.
In two years, graduate students work collaboratively with industry partners as they complete the full product development cycle from concept through validation.
Developing innovations with industry leaders in Automotive Engineering
The open innovation platform at CU-ICAR paves the way for industry partners from across the supply chain to take part in the accelerated product development of a concept vehicle for these projects.
For example, for the latest Deep Orange 12 project, the vehicle prototype programme has partnered with the Indy Autonomous Challenge to produce a driverless open-wheel race car.
The student team is tasked with engineering an Indy Lights race car to have a driverless configuration with integrated hardware and software.
This student-engineering framework will be used by separate university teams around the world to develop fully-functional autonomous vehicle algorithms for a head-to-head race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a US$1 million grand prize.
“Deep Orange is an educational framework that immerses students in industry-like environments to simulate real-world R&D challenges facing companies today,” said Dr. Robert Prucka, Clemson University Kulwicki Endowed professor and DO12 project leader,
“Working with industry partners such as IMS, ESN, Dallara and ANSYS gives students unparalleled opportunities to work with the latest technologies and collaborate with cross-functional teams in a way that will make them more innovative and capable engineering leaders after they graduate.”
Other ongoing projects include the Deep Orange 11 – a sustainability-focused concept vehicle designed as a lightweight, highly durable mobility solution for the year 2035 and beyond. The project is a collaboration with industry partners ExxonMobil and Honda R&D Americas.
Students involved in this project explore sustainable innovations in automotive engineering design such as lightweight plastics, advanced fuels and lubricants, and tire tread additives to reduce roll resistance.
Completed projects include the Deep Orange 9 vehicle, a Next-Generation Rallycross racecar which is a fuel-efficient and high-performance car that is built for rallycross – a global motorsport with large jumps and drifting on asphalt, mud and dirt tracks.
Engineered, built and tested by Clemson students, the vehicle was designed to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, minimise vehicle operating costs, and match current rallycross race performance.
Working with Honda R&D Americas, Inc as the primary sponsor, students delivered on the task and unveiled the prototype at the ALL-IN Auto Rally at Clemson University in 2018.
The vehicle is a powerful combination of high-performance and ultra-tough racing features with a fuel-efficient and clean hybrid powertrain – in line with rising fuel-efficiency standards in today’s automotive engineering world.
These projects are examples of the cutting-edge and industry-relevant practical knowledge that graduates acquire at Clemson University.
Without a doubt, this is one powerhouse of a university that offers an unparalleled student experiences and develops high-impact engineering leaders and changemakers in this rapidly growing field.