International student projects globalDrive
Contact: Dr.-Ing. Frank Diermeyer
Automotive topics are investigated in collaborative projects.
International student projects - globalDrive
After successfully participating in international student team projects in the years 2006 and 2007 at Stanford University (ME310), the Lehrstuhl für Fahrzeugtechnik (FTM) has developed its own concept - globalDrive. Teams consisting of 3-4 students located at FTM work on trend-setting topics with relevance for the automotive industry, each together with a team at a foreign partner university. An industry partner provides onsite technical support for the teams.
Both the thematic focus as well as the approach differs from a standard term paper in various aspects. The tasks are not bound to concrete develop-ment- or research projects, but are defined without restrictions and in general very open-minded. Not only the technical and economical solution of a problem are in focus, but also the creative idea together with a spirit of "making it happen" in form of a prototype are encouraged to find the solutions for abstract problems. The background is the desire to find solutions by thinking out of the box as opposed to the way expert engineers would approach those kinds of problems.
The success of these projects is based on the students being practically inexperienced in the beginning, but already highly educated in analytical thinking. Different working strategies and education of the local and foreign teams are used as "disturbance variables" to avoid a dominance of previous experiences and solutions. Beneath the heterogenic composition, also a great importance is drawn on the procedural method. The students receive all available technical and methodological support from a tutor and industry partner - but no concrete ideas to solve their problems. The teams therefore have access to all imaginable tools to accomplish their task, but are intended to find their own approach to solving the problem. Working space and communication structures as well as responsibility for the project budget are provided to them.
The kick-off of the project occurs at the foreign partner university. Students and tutors meet and get to know the country and life abroad. The teams have a first opportunity to find ideas all together. At the end of the project, a multi-week stay of the whole team in Munich for building up the final prototype and subsequently presenting the results of all teams concludes the work.
It is almost mandatory that the intended expansion of the solution space results during the first half of the project. The teams generate as much ideas as possible. As this is not ob-tainable just through whiteboard and paper, at defined milestones prototypes are constructed. These are not only representing a sole idea or function, but are a methodology to initiate new ideas itself. It does not matter, whether these new ideas improve, expand or completely replace the previous ones. The first prototypes are just the path to new insights and creativity. At one point, the students have to build a prototype of a previously discarded idea to again inspire another rethinking and still expand the solution space.
The further progress of the project in contrast marks a strong process of concentration. From the variety of ideas, a condensed portfolio is developed and evaluated in cooperation with the industry partner in a body of experts. The result is the assignment to realize one or a compatible group of ideas in a final prototype. This prototype has to offer a look-and-feel equally to the potential product and more importantly make it perceptible. It does not matter whether or not the applied technologies are actually realizable at this point of time, as long as the desired impression can be obtained.
The globalDrive projects also confront the industry partner with an uncommon approach in the beginning that is often looked at skeptically. Experience however shows that the participating companies are rewarded with new and partially astonishing solutions, when all retentions are overcome.