TARDEC tagline - Lead, Innovate, Integrate, Deliver

Brainstorming Design Session Breaks Down Creative Barriers

CW4 Richard Wills looks over CCS students' shoulders as they sketch ideas. "They are on their Christmas holiday and they took the time to come here for three days to do this.  It means a lot, actually," Wills commented. CW4 Richard Wills looks over CCS students' shoulders as they sketch ideas. "They are on their Christmas holiday and they took the time to come here for three days to do this. It means a lot, actually," Wills commented.

By Bob Van Enkenvoort

When U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) engineers, students from a respected Detroit automotive design school and Soldiers with recent experience overseas work together on ground vehicle design over the same drafting tables, you have an event where creativity meets functionality in a novel way for the Army.

At a recent Innovations Solutions Training Event, TARDEC engineers welcomed College for Creative Studies (CCS) design students, along with highly experienced Army warrant officers from Fort Lee, VA, to collaborate on ideas for two current TARDEC projects: a Mobility Demonstrator and a Virtual Window for armored vehicles. The Mobility Demonstrator is a future vehicle that can be either tracked or wheeled and focuses on flexibility. The Virtual Window allows Soldiers seated in the back of an armor-encased vehicle, such as the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, to see what's behind them before opening the rear doors.

This first-of-its-kind event, held Dec. 17-19 in Warren, MI, was organized by TARDEC project teams and G1 Workforce Development members to quickly spur ideas by combining these three key perspectives with face-to-face collaboration in the same room. TARDEC and CCS are already planning to have a second workshop with CCS students and Soldiers in May.

CCS student Brett Trippman explains his sketches near the end of the three-day event. Click to enlarge

TARDEC Director Dr. Paul Rogers said TARDEC is bringing innovation into its processes. "We're trying to change the paradigm, get out of the typical development process and bring in new ideas."

CW4 Charles Fannin commented on the design session's aggressive agenda. "I thought, 'Wow, how can we talk about ideas and solutions and have them drawn up or visualized in such a short amount of time?' [But] It was fascinating. As we were talking, things were being drawn up instantly with concepts and designs. I'm just in awe of what the students were capable of doing."

CCS Transportation Design Associate Professor Thomas Roney said that kind of collaboration is essential to the process. "It gets people who maybe aren't used to being together all in the same room bouncing ideas off each other. You get some better ideas out than you probably would have without that happening," Roney noted.

TARDEC engineers will review about 140 sketches to identify potential ideas that could move forward.

Innovations Solutions Training Event participants pose around a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Click to enlarge

"This is probably the most important process because you're able to explore new ideas," remarked James Scott, who helped design the Fuel-Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator Bravo as a CCS student in 2010, and now works for TARDEC's Advanced Concepts team as an industrial designer. "This is a chance to get a lot of innovative ideas down on paper in a short amount of time. At the end of the day, 80 percent of the ideas are unfeasible, but, perhaps, 20 percent have nuggets of innovation that could be further investigated."

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