Jim Fitz-Gerald / Engineering

Experiential Learning at the University of Virginia
Context: Manufacturing and Vehicle Safety in the United States

Greg Brown: State Farm, Charlottesville
Becky Mueller: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
James Fitz-Gerald: University of Virginia

I. The Program
This Kinnier (Mead Endowment) program is intended to expose engineering students to the field of manufacturing through experiential learning. Prof. Fitz-Gerald will work closely with colleagues at both State Farm and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to introduce students to engineering aspects related to design and manufacturing in the guise of automotive safety. Of critical concern is the lack of manufacturing education in the United States at present therefore emphasis will be placed on aspects of manufacturing in light of ethical, financial, and legal considerations and the associated impact on safety.

The project is intended for 1st year UVA students enrolled in SEAS core engineering courses during the fall of 2013. Through a self-selection process, it is estimated that ~ 40 students will be participate in the program that will take place both on grounds and at the IIHS testing facility. It is estimated that 8 visits in total will take place to the IIHS facility. At the facility, the students will participate in a staff – lead tour followed by an actual testing event. Recap of each IIHS visit will occur with a lunchtime discussion followed by a group report. It is anticipated that groups of 6 will attend testing on a bi-weekly basis during the fall semester. During this timeframe, contextual problems will be identified and presented by individual groups.

The cohort will then select one design project to execute during the fall semester. As a final event, a UVA UTS bus will be chartered to take the entire group to the IIHS for advanced final testing and discussions related to their design.

Project Outcomes:
1) Small group reports
2) Contextual Design (full cohort)
3) Final Report (full cohort)
4) Archival lecture materials for future courses in manufacturing
5) On-grounds participation in K-12 programs TBD

Associated Costs:
Item Cost Extended Total
1) Travel cost to IIHS (7 small groups) $15.00 $105.00
2) Lunches (7 small groups) $80.00 $560.00
3) UVA bus charter to the IIHS $500.00 $500.00
4) Dinners (2) with group chairs and invited speakers $300.00 $600.00
5) Design project materials, supplies, and testing $750.00 $750.00
6) Outreach program food (pizza) $250.00 $250.00
Grand Total: $2765.00

II. Experiential Learning
The primary goal of experiential learning is to introduce students to the excitement and challenges associated with engineering practice through multidisciplinary design experiences and realistic, open-ended problem solving. Further, this process seeks to develop an appreciation for the importance of the context (e.g. social, cultural, economic, environmental, organizational, and regulatory) in which the technical work of engineers is accomplished, as well as the value of oral and written communications skills, multidisciplinary teamwork, and creativity.

III. Context for Manufacturing and Design: An Example
In 2004, 42,636 people were killed in the United States in automobile-related accidents, 5116 of these fatalities were related to automobile accidents involving trucks, 3837 of which were conventional passenger cars. Vehicle under-ride (UR) was attributed to 1918 of these fatalities.

The process of UR involves a collision of a conventional passenger automobile with a trailer (or other large vehicle) of any truck, causing the car to be “wedged” under the rear of the truck.

Although UR results in many fatalities every year, minimal regulation has been created to counteract it and very minimal (and ineffective) change has been made to the actual trucks to combat UR.

The rear guards equipped on trucks are supposed to prevent cars from going under the truck bed during a collision, however, the current regulations for the truck’s rear guard allow for companies to install rear guards that will not provide sufficient protection during a collision.

Previous studies conducted at the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) of the Wabash guard, which passes the tougher Canadian standards, are shown in the above figure. The test images above show a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu with a weight of approximately 3,500 pounds impacting a Wabash rear-end truck bumper guard at 35 mph. The results of the test showed significant deformation in the bumper with the potential for head trauma and associated leg injury to the driver.