Part of a Winning Team

While I was writing my Thesis in Graduate School, I had the privilege of being involved with a global and collaborative project, the General Motors (GM) Sustainable Urban Transportation (SUT) Design Project. The SUT design challenge was a inter-disciplinary engineering project that challenged my problem solving and critical thinking skills. I am proud to be part of the Winning Team that Designed the Agriyah Vehicle set to be put into production by GM in 2025.  

 

GM Sustainable Urban Transportation Design Project

Ntengwa Mukosa, Director of STEM Programs at Ascension Works during his work at the General Motors (GM) Sustainable Urban Transportation (SUT) Design Project.

 

The Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering design challenge was developed to introduce graduate engineers to real world problem solving by virtue of a design competition. I was part of a design team that included groups from, Mexico, 2 from India,  Michigan USA and New Mexico USA.  I was put in charge of the ergonomics team that was tasked with designing an ergonomic interior that was based in New Mexico.

With the help of my team, we were able to develop a methodology for car interior design that included various human factor and safety measures incorporated in our design.  The team powered through the early stages of the design process. We were fortunate in considering future processes while constructing a working prototype. After taking into account the manufacturability, bill of materials, time to assemble, maintenance and replaceability the team identified a lot of challenges with the initial design of the vehicle. Either the manufacturing costs were too high or the shapes & designs of certain parts could not be made in an assembly line or replacing the assembled pieces was not convenient for end users. This was a lot to digest for my first experience outside the classroom and safety of a one hour lab.

Real world experience is vital for tomorrow innovators, because the theory and the application of theory are vastly different yet co-dependant. Education is a 2 step process that consists of attaining knowledge and applying the knowledge learnt for the betterment of humankind. Imagine providing a solution to a real world problem as being a puzzle you’re trying to solve. The scientific knowledge base makes up the pieces of the puzzle and the application of that knowledge is the sequence in which the pieces to the puzzle are joined together.  

To help tackle this our DTI curriculum introduces scientific concepts where  students are self-guided through our creative design scenarios. Students are given real world problems to solve. This hands-on program allows tomorrow’s scientists and engineers to get a complete education by also learning how to apply their knowledge base and design skills in fun interactive lab exercises.

DTI students are a part of a winning team! They have the opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss solutions to a problem while going through a fun, scientific exploration. At the core of  the DTI program, we are creating a culture of critical thinkers and problem solvers that have the mindset to help solve real world problems. The skills young innovators learn in the DTI program provide them with an education for life. Learn more about the program. Help us teach the world how to fish.

The Value of Real World Experience to Young Learners

The biggest engineering project I have had the privilege to partake in thus far was NASA’s Reduced Gravity and Bio-mechanics (RGB) Simulation project. This was a 5 million dollar research project that involved engineers and scientists from different majors. What a great opportunity for me to get real world experience right after getting my Bachelors in Industrial Engineering.  You can view some cool videos from this project here.

 

 NASA’s Reduced Gravity and Bio-mechanics (RGB) Simulation project

Ntengwa Mukosa, Director of STEM Programs at Ascension Works during his work at NASA’s Reduced Gravity and Bio-mechanics (RGB) Simulation project

 

The RGB team was a multi-disciplinary project that included over 40 engineers involved with the various parts of the project. Working on a project with so many moving parts, there were many obstacles that we had to overcome as a team.

The biggest lesson I learned from this project was how to work with a team. Imagine working with 6 departments in charge of either the Mechanical, Human Factors and Ergonomics,  Adaptive and Balancing, Simulation and Testing, System Engineering, Safety, Lab Design and Lab Construction.  Phew! Just thinking about it has me catching my breathe.

The RGB project challenged my application of scientific theories and principles, towards real world tangible solutions.  The STEM based curriculum we developed at Ascension Works introduces students to scenarios, and challenges that they can solve themselves as we take them on a journey as explorers from earth to an intergalactic planet.

Can you picture working on a project with that many teams with each team consisting of 6 engineers and each team running into design challenges simultaneously with engineering and science based problems to solve? The most valuable lesson from my work on NASA’s RGB project was learning how to work in groups with other professionals to accomplish a common goal. Collaboration with others in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics world usually leads to a more indepth understanding of your knowledge base.

The  Design, Technology and Innovation (DTI) program gives students the opportunity to hone in on their ability to perform fun teamwork exercises as they work to solve problems by themselves and then develop their solutions in groups. Studies like the one published by the National Science Teachers Association identified that collaborative exercises in educational settings help students to self reflect, think critically, listen to others and work cohesively together to overcome design challenges. At Ascension Works we believe this is a crucial component to growing a culture of tomorrow’s leaders that can think critically and problem solve while working with others.

At DTI, students will work in a collaborative environment that allows them to exchange ideas and discuss solutions to a problem while going through an enjoyable, scientific exploration. The main goal of the DTI program is to create a culture of critical thinkers and problem solvers that have the mindset to help solve real world problems and not just acquire and then regurgitate knowledge for a test score. The skills our young innovators will learn in the DTI program will provide them with an education for life. Go to www.awnow.org/dti to learn more about the program.