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Growing STEM: Designing the cars of tomorrow for today

Cleveland Institute of Art students are embracing the latest technology to make their ideas come to life.

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Auto Show is where Northeast Ohio comes to dream big and kick tires.

It's also the place to get a peek at future possibilities, like a Ram Revolution pick-up truck. It’s a concept vehicle that could someday be an all-electric option on the open market. But it isn’t all about the sleek exterior and climate conscious engine. The driver's experience will be in the cabin, which is more like a cockpit and that interior was designed by a Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) graduate, where tomorrow’s car designers are learning today.

"Really, our program is about problem solving over styling," said Jason Tilk, a Cleveland Institute of Art lecturer.

Tilk’s students are building straight from the driver’s seat, using virtual reality.

"Starting from a user's point of view, doing the level of research to understand who the vehicles for, why it's being made," added Tilk.

Vehicle design is rooted in geometry. Whether imagined by sketch, sculpted in clay, or computerized 3D, students must understand space and form to bring their ideas to life, and quickly.

"It's great ideations. Get it done quick. Get it done fast. Because if you linger on it, then it's like then it never gets done. Let's get it done," remarked CIA Student Tariq Ameen.

"It's allowing your student and the designer to visualize in sort of like the fastest way possible," said Tilk.

"The idea of having your designs driving past you on your way to work is something that really pushed me towards this major," said CIA student Agent Dunstone.

Dunstone is ready to put his creativity into overdrive, but quickly learned that's not how auto design works.

"We're studying how materials interact with each other, how they're made different components and how they're fastened. Stuff like that. That's all important,” said Dunstone.

One project had Dunstone redesign the Apollo moon buggy for modern space exploration.

"Whether it's a vehicle driving here or whether it's a vehicle driving on the moon or Mars, they're all still vehicles,” said Dunstone. “They'll all still have purposes and users behind them."

The transportation design major at CIA focuses heavily on getting graduates into the automotive industry. And will even bring the industry into the classroom. The goal, to change how we think about cars moving forward.

"I've always wanted to, you know, wanted to change things,” said Ameen. “I wanted to be a part of change or something big. Like it's, you know, we all want to inspire others."

From 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, Cleveland Institute of Art Transportation Design students will be sketching cars and answering questions about their work at the CIA booth, which is located across from the Ram Truck Territory area.

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