Wayne State engineering students explore innovation via competition at Lear

lear_challenge1A group of Wayne State University students recently took part in the Lear Open Innovation Challenge, collaborating with their peers from the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor and Dearborn campuses to compete for prizes as well as summer internships.

Twenty-seven engineering and business students — including 10 from Wayne State — formed six interdisciplinary teams tasked with cultivating ideas and pushing Lear’s boundaries.

The tournament-style competition began with a two-day “jumpstart” workshop March 18 and 19. On April 1, teams pitched their solutions to Lear executives and venture capitalists in downtown Detroit at the Lear Innovation Center, a hub for automotive advanced concept development and hands-on learning that opened in October.

“We were really impressed with the quality of the students’ work along with the passion that they brought to this challenge,” said Bob Humphrey, director of innovation management at Lear and one of the competition’s judges. “It was remarkable to see what the students were able to deliver in such a short period of time, and we are very much looking forward to what they will accomplish given a full summer internship.”

The Innovatrium, an innovation consulting firm, facilitated the tournament and provided the accelerated training. Students benefited from the opportunity to network with and be mentored by industry leaders and faculty, practice sales and pitching skills, and contribute to the future of mobility and vehicle connectivity.

lear_challenge2Electrical engineering student Salim Marouf was a member of the first-place team, earning an opportunity to develop the group’s prototype this summer as a Lear innovation fellow.

Seven engineering disciplines were represented by Wayne State’s participants: electrical engineering majors Filippo Caro, Palash Pattewar, Andre Roussell, and Marouf; biomedical engineering student Afreen Fatima; civil engineering student Javad Roostaei; computer science major Yukti Dhiman; engineering technology student Wenzhe Jiao; mechanical engineering major Mohammad Hijazi; and Christopher Shah, who is studying global supply chain management with a minor in industrial engineering.

”This event highlights the need for effective communication among multidisciplinary teams,” said Ethan Eagle, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and Wayne State’s faculty sponsor for the event. “Students responded very positively to the intense pressure and came up with some wild, innovative ideas.  They were encouraged to ‘accelerate failure’ and came away with a new understanding that the best ideas come from experiment and iteration, not perfect planning.”


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