The Creative Lab is an innovative teaching initiative university-industry in Spain. The aim is for students to generate new ideas for redesigning the concept of an urban vehicle and developing a new kind of mobility in the city.
The German group Volkswagen and SEAT have developed, with the Terrassa School of Engineering (EET) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), an innovative teaching project in search of new ideas called the Creative Lab. It is an ideas laboratory in which 30 students have conceived, over the course of a semester, new solutions for reinventing urban mobility and current ideas of urban vehicles. The five proposals that were generated are now being analysed by engineers at the Volkswagen Group.
The Creative Lab, which is being promoted this academic year by the EET, the Volkswagen Group and SEAT, is an innovative teaching initiative that is based on multidisciplinary collaboration and is designed to attract talented students and encourage them to design new technological solutions and develop feasible changes in two areas: cooperative mobility in urban environments (using Barcelona as the scenario) and a new concept for an urban vehicle.
Over a semester, students from five engineering specialisations taught at the EET have worked outside the curriculum with a group that includes students from other specialisations with the aim of generating ideas for the Volkswagen Group. Following six months of work, three urban mobility projects have emerged: cooperative mobility in urban environments, cooperative driving, parking map, VWpoints and the Modular Car.
How the Creative Lab works
Eighty-three students applied, of which the EET selected the thirty most promising to form six groups. The selection criteria used to form the groups were the motivation expressed by the students in their applications, their CVs, their mastery of English (the Creative Lab’s working language), interdisciplinarity and balance in terms of both their academic level (first or second year) and their specialisation.
Each group comprised five students on the bachelor’s degrees in Industrial Design and Product Development Engineering, Audiovisual Systems Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Industrial Electronics and Automatic Control Engineering.
The proposals made by students were developed from the specifications given by engineers at the Volkswagen Group and SEAT. Ideas were sought about vehicles’ cooperative behaviour, cooperative functions in urban environments, interaction between vehicles, the effects of human-machine relations in driving spaces, transport vehicles in cities, driving tasks analysis and the connection between the vehicle and the urban environment.
This activity, in which the students’ participation was voluntary, took place outside class hours, although their participation is recognised in the form of university extension credits. In addition, students who wish to will be able to base their bachelor’s thesis on the results or the idea conceived in the Creative Lab.
Monitoring of projects
The group of students was supervised by 10 professors from the EET and during the course of the projects they received the support of four R&D engineers from the Volkswagen Group and SEAT, who have monitored the projects regularly and have taught the students in technical seminars.
The EET has adapted a classroom to accommodate the Creative Lab, for which it has received the support of the company CREVIN.
A positive experience
According to Santi Castellà, the head of electromobility projects at SEAT, “the experience has been very positive. The results have surpassed our expectations.” He also states that “the talent and commitment of the students and the passion with which they have worked on their ideas have all been extraordinary. I’m sure that the results of the project will benefit all those involved. In fact, we are already preparing for the second edition next year”.
Núria Garrido, assistant director of the EET and coordinator of the Creative Lab, says that “from an educational point of view, the best thing about it has been students’ involvement, enthusiasm and willingness to learn,” and then adds, “the limitations of the classroom have been swept aside, the tutors have been team members like any other and they have worked to enliven the group work and support students – who have played the starring role – in their learning process.”
Laura Codina, who is taking a double degree in Industrial Design and Product Development Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, explains that “it’s been an exhilarating few months, having professionals from the Volkswagen Group alongside us and working with such a motivated team of colleagues from other disciplines. We’ve unleashed our creativity on a project that could become a reality – it really has been priceless.” She adds, “the doors at SEAT and the Volkswagen Group are now open to us for work experience, so that’s a big plus.”
Get in contact: Drivers using this system enable their vehicles to communicate with others in a way similar to whatsapping, with integrated controls in the vehicle itself, let them create groups of cars, share media (basically music recommendations) and location, etc.
Cascade Networking: The vehicle detects obstacles, dangers, alternative routes and parking spaces. It is also able to transmit that information using a standard that other vehicles can recieve and retransmit as well. The cascading information covers the area of influence and interest for any vehicle that might need it.
Parking Map: This intuitive system enables drivers to choose the best parking option in real time. The information is obtained by interpreting GPS data input generated by cars leaving or entering parking spaces and is displayed on the windscreen, superimposed on the road. If the parking space is not free of charge, the system will offer the driver the possibility of paying directly or with a mobile device.
VW Points: This system evaluates the quality of a specific driver’s performance by assigning social points. As long as drivers implement good practices, they will be rewarded with points they can use for discounts on fuel and official spare parts, and climb the ranks in social media.
Modular Car: Since a single vehicle does not address an individual user’s multiple needs, the modular vehicle will help to constantly adapt itself to the driver’s needs throughout its service life. By establishing a system of distribution, storage and rental of modules, drivers will carry out a routine of adapting their vehicle characteristics to their daily needs.