DETROIT -- Featuring computer-generated images of Star Wars-like vehicles and renderings of futuristic-looking Nissans and Jeeps, Jason Falenski's portfolio is wide ranging.
Falenski is one of four students in the first graduating class of the Transportation Design program at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich. The program, with a focus on engineering and manufacturing and an enrollment of only about 30 students, aims to differentiate itself from those at other schools by giving its students real-life learning experiences, the program's director says.
"Other schools, because they are fine art schools, they don't need math and engineering classes," program director Keith Nagara said in an interview. "Our students need a strong background in math and science."
Students graduate from the program with the knowledge of an experienced, working, designer, Falenski said. Because of their focus on engineering, Falenski said students understand the need to design vehicles that can be built with parts that can be mass produced and used on the assembly line.
Ford Motor Co. and other automakers provided seed grants to start the program, Nagara said. Several companies, such as the Detroit 3, Nissan Motor Co. and Visteon Corp., have sponsored design studios for the program. Professionals from the companies instruct the students as they create prototype designs.
Students' learning isn't limited to the classroom or studio as they have had internships with automakers in the United States and Europe. Of the four students who graduated this month, two interned with Chrysler Group, one worked for Volkswagen AG in Germany and another is in France interning with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen SA.
Nagara said that Lawrence Tech students often compete with, and beat, students from larger design schools for internships and jobs.
With his Bachelor of Science degree completed, Falenski, who now works for Ford, hopes to use his degree to further his automobile design career.
He said his dream job is to "be the guy to design the hot rod."