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Intellect

BYU student engineers unveil international cars

University hosts PACE Annual Forum July 25-28

How does "vroom, vroom" translate into Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish?

Very well, if you ask Brigham Young University mechanical engineering students who used their language skills to oversee a worldwide inter-school collaboration to design four new "international cars."

Select students from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Mexico and other countries, whose schools are members of PACE (an alliance formed among General Motors Corp. , Electronic Data Systems Corp. , Sun Microsystems Inc. and UGS Corp. that supports academic institutions with computer-based engineering and design tools) unveiled their work July 26 in the BYU Conference Center . The event was part of PACE's annual forum , which was hosted on campus July 25-28.

The multiteam student presentation featured an explanation of how more than 140 engineering and design students from five continents ( click to see video ) used technology to collaborate and design four cars from the ground up. Additionally, the students showed off their slick computer-aided designs of the cars' interiors and exteriors and video clips of computerized crash tests.

The presentation was beamed live to GM's design studios in Detroit where professional engineers and designers who have served as mentors for the project critiqued the students' work.

For BYU project leader Will Blattman, who is conversant in Portuguese, the experience gave him valuable exposure to the challenges of project management in addition to the rigor of the engineering problems that had to be solved.

"A mass collaboration and discussion had to happen around the world to make all of this stuff come together at the end to produce a car that looks like it was created by a single company," said Blattman. "Making sure we were all on the same page was a challenge, but it was worth it."

GM has design studios scattered around the world that work in similar fashion, said Greg Jensen, a BYU professor of mechanical engineering who served as faculty adviser on the PACE project.

"The design folks in Australia may end up designing part of a car that gets manufactured in China or Mexico or Detroit," said Jensen. "Our students are going through some of this same process as a learning experience."

An international collaboration like this is exactly what PACE was set up to do, said Jensen.

"PACE is also all about laying a foundation for engineering and design students to learn and become familiar with key software at the freshman and sophomore level," said Jensen. "By the time they are seniors, they can work real-world problems like this one, solving them in the same way that GM has to do it day in and day out. This allows new engineers to hit the ground running when GM hires them."

Four schools focused on designing the cars' exteriors – University West in Sweden, Virginia Tech , Hong-ik University in South Korea and Monash University in Australia. BYU's design team was tasked with designing the cars' interior.

Thirteen other engineering programs worked on the cars' platform – everything that's hidden from sight, which includes such components as the chassis (designed by BYU), suspension, engine, transmission, differential and exhaust system.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China designed the brake system, while the Universities of British Columbia , Waterloo and Toronto in Canada did the steering, the suspension and differential systems, respectively. Three universities in Mexico – Iberoamericana , ITESM Monterrey and ITESM Toluca – created the engine, exhaust system and door substructure, respectively. The University of Sao Paulo in Brazil was responsible for the bumper substructure. Engineering students from University West were responsible for the substructure for the hood and trunk and their counterparts at Hong-ik University designed the floor pan, firewall and trunk deck.

Virginia Tech was the system integrator for the power train, which is made up of the transmission (designed by Virginia Tech), engine and differential. BYU played the role of overall integrator for the four cars.

"The selection of BYU as the 'hub' has a lot to do with the quality of BYU students and their ability to speak multiple languages," said Jensen. "Certainly our ability to use the PACE software is very high. Often when I take students with me to visit some of the other schools, we spend a couple of days training them how to use the tools better."

Of the scope of the project Jensen said, "There isn't another academic collaboration that comes close to the size and scope of this project. It's the first of its kind."

Other PACE Annual Forum sessions will focus on the presentation of faculty papers that examine current academic curriculum issues or highlight research done using the PACE suite of software.

"PACE gives the software to its partner universities and takes great interest in hearing how they use it. The forum is a chance for faculty to step forward and report on what they've done."

Related at BYU: In December 2002, PACE donated 2,275 software licenses to BYU , including those GM uses in its math-based vehicle development process. The gift was valued at $313.8 million and was the largest single PACE contribution to date and the largest corporate gift in BYU history.

At the time, Wayne Cherry, then-vice president of design for GM, said the gift to BYU represented an investment in the automaker's future.

"At GM we know that innovative approaches are the lifeblood of success," said Cherry. "BYU and GM are both developing a dynamic collaboration of tools, processes and working relationships for a lean, fast and creative methodology."

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