Members of the FCA US Product Design Office usually do their work in secret as they design the next generation of cars, trucks and SUVs.
That changed, albeit for just a few hours, when members of the design team recently displayed some of their skills at Macomb Community College’s Auto STEAM days.
With pencil in hand – one traditional and one digital – designers sketched a Jeep® Wrangler on vellum paper and then added color to the sketch on a Cintiq tablet before hundreds of students.
Laura Jonason was one of the designers who showcased her skills for students, and described the process of drawing a Jeep Wrangler, to those in attendance.
She used a pencil – without an eraser – to draw the wheels and tires of the Jeep before adding other details, such as the round headlamps, hexagonal wheel openings and the unique Jeep grille.
“Jeep vehicles need to have a seven-slot grille, so I always start with the center one and add three to either side,” said Jonason, as she described the process of drawing one of the most iconic features of the Jeep.
For more than a decade, Macomb Community College has welcomed students to campus to learn more about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) related careers from professionals, such as Jonason, at Auto STEAM days.
Nearly 3,000 students in grades six through 12 attended this year’s event to learn about career opportunities in auto design, manufacturing, robotics and technology from representatives of suppliers and manufacturers, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
“(Auto STEAM is an) outreach to the community, and to the kids particularly, to tell them about the great companies and careers that might be of interest to them,” said Joe Petrosky, Dean, Engineering & Advanced Technology at Macomb Community College. “So many of our youth don’t know about those opportunities, and how they can apply mathematics and science to these types of careers.”
Students who attended the FCA presentation also learned how computers are used in the design process. Everard Scott, a senior designer, demonstrated how he uses a digital pencil to add color and texture to the Jeep sketch in Photoshop.
“The purpose of these drawings is to illustrate our idea to our bosses,” said Scott, who added that designers initially compete against each other before one sketch is selected. “Once a (sketch) is picked, we work together as a team to make the one design a reality.”
Being able to see the design process firsthand, and hearing from leaders in the STEAM field, is beneficial for students, according to Lois Davis, a teacher at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills, Michigan, who previously worked in industrial engineering before moving into the classroom.
“As engineers, we don’t talk about our professions very much,” said Davis. “This gives an opportunity for the kids to really see what an engineer would do, what kinds of things they can do and what is out there.”
For those students who attended the event, they got a behind-the-scenes look into the design process that few are able to see.
“It’s kind of a rare opportunity to see what we do. Everything we do is so secretive,” Scott told the students. “They don’t really let us out much to show you this stuff.”
High school students interested in automotive design can enter the FCA US Product Design team’s annual Drive for Design contest for a chance to win prizes while learning about exciting career opportunities in automotive design. Information about the contest will be announced in early 2018 at www.fcadrivefordesign.com.