Students design features for the car of the future at Imperial

Imperial student working on Ford vehicle

Industrial Design and Engineering postgraduates are helping a motor company to design a new car <em>– News</em>

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Thursday 26 March 2009
By Colin Smith

A car manufacturer has asked postgraduates to design features for cars of the future in a joint project at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art.

Students from the two institutions who are studying for a Masters degree in Industrial Design and Engineering (IDE) are collaborating with Ford to come up with new features that meet the future needs of consumers.

IDE Joint Course Convenor Professor Peter Childs, of Imperial’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, says students are being taught the processes that the car industry goes through to design a new car. He adds:

“Evolving customer tastes and requirements mean that as soon as car manufacturers release a new car they start to think about how they can improve the next model. Thanks to Ford’s patronage, our students get the chance to come up with new ideas for vehicle designs that they could one day see released onto the market.”

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As part of the project, Ford donated two cars to the Colleges for students to analyse and use for their new designs. Over a four week period, designers from the company’s advanced product group have been visiting students to get progress reports on their work. Alicia Agius from Ford says:

“The students are providing us with a fresh perspective on innovation. We have been really impressed with their creativity and their ability to come up with innovative ideas. They’ve been a real creative force.”

Matthew Laws, who has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial and is an IDE first year postgraduate, says he has really enjoyed interacting with members of the Ford team.

“Increasingly, cars are being used for a whole range of different purposes such as on the road office space or a travelling entertainment centre,” says Matthew. “Ford has been tapping our creativity to see what ideas we could come up with. It has been such a rewarding process and has taught me a lot about the industry and how to create new designs that are commercially viable.”

IDE student working on new features for Ford

The students are working in a laboratory in the Mechanical Engineering Building that faces Exhibition Road. The space has large windows at ground level that look out onto the street, making it an ideal opportunity for students to showcase their work to pedestrians. The RCA’s Neil Barron, Senior Tutor on the IDE course, says:

“Not many people realise that design and engineering go hand-in-hand and the whole process of developing new concepts can be a fascinating process to watch. Day-by-day pedestrians have been able to see students working on the car. This is a great opportunity for showing the world what we do on our IDE course.”

The final design concepts will be presented to representatives of the company this week.

The IDE course is managed jointly by the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London and the School of Design for Industry at the Royal College of Art. It offers students an intensive training and education for industrial design engineering practice, industry, consultancy or self-employment. Successful completion of the two-year course leads to the award of an MSc from Imperial College and an MA (RCA) from the Royal College of Art.

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