Students help Covestro forecast features of autonomous vehicles
Company managers and engineers recently had a chance to learn how today’s students would steer product development for tomorrow’s autonomous vehicles if they were in the driver’s seat at Covestro.
Kids from a South Fayette High School science class gave recommendations on automotive features their generation would find desirable during a March 9th presentation on a project they undertook for the company during their spring semester. Among other things, they found their contemporaries wanted—and would pay extra for—the comfort of leather-like seating and the convenience of full-service WiFi. Their findings came from a combination of surveys and other research.
The Consortium’s Student Powered Solutions (SPS) program, which pairs companies and classrooms for Project-Based Learning (PBL) experiences, facilitated the work. SPS connected the students with Covestro’s Future of Mobility team, whose members are themselves trying to forecast passenger preferences in order to gain insight into how Covestro materials can help drive automotive innovation forward. Covestro makes advanced polymers used for a wide range of automotive applications—from car seats and bumper components to soundproofing and paint.
PBL gives students a chance to apply learning to real-world problems while practicing the soft skills needed to work in teams. Companies willing to work with them get the benefit of outside perspectives and sometimes even actionable new ideas.
Students said the Covestro project was a great learning experience and a bit of an eye-opener. Kenny said it gave him an important lesson about leadership. “You learn how to collaborate and not to be overbearing,” he said.
For Cassie, the project underscored that in the world beyond the classroom. “There aren’t necessarily any guidelines. You’re just thrown into it to find an answer,” she said. “In school we’re told exactly what we have to do and we do exactly what we’re told.”
Although many of the students’ findings were in line with Covestro’s own research, one manager was curious and pleased to learn that customers in the targeted age group reported a willingness to pay more for luxury features.