YEN Leadership visit the Detroit CuS.T.E.M. Car Experience

By: Daryl Hutson

The Future of the Automotive Industry Looks Bright

During a half-day field trip to regional auto events, middle school students are encouraged to design a vehicle based on an early morning think tank, a walk of the event floor for inspiration, and a catalog of upgrades presented with a budget spreadsheet. In the hands-on portion of this design, paper models are built and stylized as prototypes. These final models, spec sheets, and budgets are then presented "shark-tank" style to a panel of volunteers from the automotive industry.

As a volunteer to the Detroit event, I was impressed by the enthusiasm and creativity of these students. Ideas such as color changing paint to help absorb or reflect heat and active window shades for parked vehicles was evidence that the next generation is thinking about energy conservation. A surprise, however, was how much these kids care about safety as well; as even the performance-oriented cars had the boxes checked for safety and advanced driver-assistance systems. But one group's "you can have it in any color as long as it's black" portion of the pitch helped drill in the point that even generation after generation, some things never change.

Last year's SEMA Young Accessorizers Report stated nearly 8 million young people between the ages of 16-24 customize their vehicles. If that trend continues, and if the ideas coming from the middle school students in Detroit are any indication, the future of the automotive aftermarket industry is in good hands.