By Joseph Tregembo, Communications Director, DRIVE One Detroit
On a snowy morning in January, hundreds of people from both industry and the press lined the halls of Detroit’s Cobo Center for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). The event attracts thousands from across the globe to Detroit to see the latest in car design and technology and to get a glimpse into what the automotive world has in-store for the future. The annual Press Preview was no different than in years past with the atrium and show floor filled with a who’s-who of CEOs, designers, TV personalities and celebrities. However, of the many surprising faces seen surveying the industry’s latest-and-greatest, the most interesting was not Bob Seger, but rather a group of area high school kids.
Students Alexis Panetta, Isiah Cook, and Miranda Rumfelt from the DRIVE One TechCenter in the nearby suburb of Roseville, Michigan attended the show’s Press Preview as guests of Axalta. But they weren’t there simply to glare at the new cars. Since September, DRIVE One students had been hard-at-work on a set of four projects that would help introduce Axalta’s 2018 Automotive Color of the Year-StarLite at the annual EyesOn Design Awards during Tuesday’s NAIAS Press Preview. The EyesOn Design Awards, which recognizes the best in automotive design and styling at vehicles debuting at NAIAS, is judged by the Heads of Design and Product Development for major automotive manufacturers, as well as Professors from the most renowned transportation design colleges and the biggest names in automotive journalism.
|The StarLiter projects took students through the same development process used by professional vehicle designers|
The projects, dubbed the StarLiter projects, took students through the same development process used by professional vehicle designers with the only exception being that the finished product would be a working pedal car rather than a full-scale vehicle. As part of the projects, students sketched and later rendered two new designs that highlighted Axalta’s 90 Years of Iconic Colors; a 1925 Roadster Concept and a 2025 autonomous concept.
Upon completing a finalized rendering of each design, students sculpted 1:5 scale clay models to the specifications of both renderings, then took the dimensions and constructed matching pedal cars from the ground-up. Upon completion of both the clay models and pedal cars, all four StarLiters went to the spray booth where students primed and painted each model and pedal car themselves. Once the projects were cleared, they went back to DRIVE’s Transportation Design Studio for final detailing and then were transported to Cobo Center for display during NAIAS and the Press Preview. The overall process took close to 16 weeks, starting with basic sketches on a pad of paper and culminated with the finished pedal cars showcased on the stage at the EyesOn Design Awards where all the judges, award recipients, attendees and media personnel could clearly see them.
|Students got hands on with clay modelling|
In addition to the countless hours put-in by Alexis, Isiah, Miranda, and 40 other students attending classes at the DRIVE One TechCenter, several DRIVE One Volunteers and Instructors from all corners of the industry provided their time and expertise to help students on the StarLiter projects, including Dale Burke, a retired designer from Ford who helped shape and weld the pedal cars, and Ryan Goimarac, a designer and engineer for Fiat-Chrysler who helped students create their own renderings.
By designing the pedal cars themselves, and then taking their designs to a completed product: all the students who participated were able to see the design process at work, and develop a greater understanding of what it takes for a vehicle to go from a simple idea in someone’s head, to a car they see on the road every day. And with several seniors attending DRIVE having serious interest in careers as automotive designers, the lesson behind the StarLiters could not have come at a more opportune time.
|Drive One students pose with their finished projects|
It’s also worth noting that the StarLiters won’t be “burning-out” after the auto show either. The 1925 StarLiter Pedal Car will return to Cobo Center to compete in the Pedal Car Challenge at the 66th Annual Detroit Autorama in early March. All four StarLiters will also be prominently featured as part of the “DRIVE One: Clay Model Build-Off” during the IX Piston-Power Autorama, the largest indoor car show in North America, which will be held in Cleveland two weeks after the return to Cobo.
Many high school students have opportunities to showcase their hard work, but few will ever have a stage to showcase their work greater than the North American International Auto Show.
|The pedal cars were proudly displayed on the stage at EyesOn Design|
Though the pride Alexis, Isiah, and Miranda felt with those pedal cars in front of the greatest car designers in the world may very well last a lifetime; with the lessons learned building the StarLiters, don’t be surprised when it may be them or another DRIVE Student sitting up on that judge’s stage very soon.