Future Engineers Get Hands-On Experience with the Ohio State EcoCAR Team

Written by: Jake Berg and Allison Mellor

What’s in store for the future of mobility? That’s exactly what 125 middle school students at Imagine Great Western Academy in Columbus, Ohio learned when a handful of EcoBuckeyes from The Ohio State University EcoCAR team visited the school last week.

The team of engineering Buckeyes highlighted the history of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions and new developments in mobility technology. They taught students about the latest connected and autonomous technologies including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warnings.

“Autonomous technology is the most interesting aspect of the newest competition because our future seems to be going in that direction,” Mackenzie Teaford, the students’ teacher, said.

One class even had the opportunity to see advanced facial recognition camera in action. The camera is used inside autonomous vehicles to determine whether the driver is paying attention by tracking where they are looking, whether their eyes are opened or closed and if their hands are on the wheel. This is more advanced than your typical Snapchat filter—the camera can generate a 3-D image of the driver and their surroundings, and it can even create a heatmap that shows how far away objects and people are.

These future engineers couldn’t wait to experience the completed EcoCAR 3 Chevrolet Camaro firsthand. Team members were happy to give students a tour of the custom hybrid vehicle in the school’s parking lot and walk them through the ins and outs of reengineering a car. The team also explained how they will apply what they learned to design an even better vehicle in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge.

Phillip Dalke, the team’s propulsion systems integration lead, wrapped up each class by answering the students’ questions about the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, autonomous technology and hybrid vehicles. He was excited to see the students’ interest in the competition and STEM.

“Passing knowledge is easy, but passing interest is hard,” Dalke said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here—spark the next generation’s passion for STEM.”