February 20, 2015 8:45AM
Students in Pittsburg State University’s Department of Automotive Technology recently popped the hoods on two brand new sets of wheels. What they found underneath were lots and lots of computers.
A brand new 2015 Dodge Dart and 2015 Ford Explorer are now part of the department’s fleet of cars on which the students work and learn. The vehicles, with a combined value of more than $50,000, were donated by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Company.
“At College of Technology Company Day last fall, representatives from Chrysler and Ford were here recruiting students,” said Scott Norman, associate professor of automotive technology. “We walked them through our auto lab, and we started talking about how we could use some newer cars for the students to learn on. Those guys said they’d see what they could do, and now we have two new vehicles in our fleet.”
Norman said having new vehicles in the lab is beneficial for many reasons.
“Most importantly, it’s good for students because they can learn the ins and outs of the newest technology on the market,” he said. “We can train students on a 2011 model or a 1999 model, but when they go out into industry, they’re going to have to know 2015 models. For them to get that experience here at the Kansas Technology Center is a huge benefit for them.”
Graduate student John S.C. Thorpe said students greatly appreciate the chance to gain educational experience on the new vehicles.
“It’s great for us because we know we’re going to be prepared to go out into the workforce and know what we’re dealing with,” he said. “Technology in cars is always changing, and it’s important to keep up with the times. Having the new cars at our university helps tremendously with that.”
Norman said computers and electronics have significantly changed the ways car operate.
“A prime example of this is the new 2015 cars we just received,” he said. “Our 1999 cars have probably seven computers in them. These 2015 cars have between 30 and 40 computers in them. There are electronics from the windshield down to the tires. They’re everywhere.
“Our students must be prepared to understand these types of vehicles by the time they leave PSU,” he said. “So, we’re incredibly grateful to our corporate donors and supporters who make that level of education possible.”
Along with the new cars, the auto tech department also received from Ford a clutchless manual transmission system, a technology that has become more prominent in American cars in the past five years. The system works just like a traditional manual transmission, but the shifting is managed by a computer.
“It works just like an automatic transmission, but manual transmission systems are much different in their mechanics,” Norman said. “Mechanically, the system we received is a manual transmission, but it’s the type that is controlled by a computer, not the driver. So you still get the fuel economy and durability of a manual transmission system, but you have the ease of drive you get from an automatic.
“This will be another great tool for our students to learn on, as they’re going to start seeing these more and more in the market,” he said.