Wayne State students enjoy special day with Yazaki engineers at North American International Auto Show
Six Wayne State University engineering students were among the participants in Yazaki’s fifth annual Student Liaison program at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit last week. The program, designed to expose the next generation workforce to the future of the automotive industry, was a special invitation-only event and included 32 students from 12 local universities.
Representing Wayne State were mechanical engineering students Kadhim Allohaibi, Andy Gutierrez and Tyler Knott; industrial and systems engineering major Andrew Jacks; and electrical engineering students Ahmad Aledrisi and Hunter Thornhill.
Thornhill, a freshman at WSU, appreciated the invitation after being on Yazaki’s radar since interviewing for an internship as a senior at Canton High School, which is only a 10-minute drive from the company’s North American headquarters. The event’s exclusivity was not lost on Jacks either, who saw several of his friends participate over the years and was relieved in his senior year to be offered the chance.
“After years of waiting on the sidelines, I finally got into the game,” said Jacks.
Each student was paired with a Yazaki engineer and, upon arriving at Cobo Hall in the morning, had the opportunity to network with their mentors during breakfast in the Yazaki hospitality suite, where product displays also gave them greater familiarity with the company.
Following a welcome from Yazaki’s chief engineers, the students and mentors made their way to the showroom floor, where they had full access to displays, exhibitions and more than 750 vehicles during the two Industry Preview days at NAIAS. Naturally, everyone had their favorites.
“The BMW I8 was very impressive because it’s a classic BMW sports car, but it’s also a hybrid,” said Jacks, who also noted his fondness for the Ford GT and the Chevrolet Colorado. Thornhill commented that the Lexus U.S. concept vehicle “was a beautiful SUV.”
A normal day at NAIAS can attract well over 100,000 people, but the students and mentors were among only a few thousand business and industry leaders, allowing them to see the show from a different perspective.
“On Industry Days, unlike the public offering, you have a chance to go inside some of the locked vehicles and look under the hood,” said Jacks. “It’s much more hands-on.”
The wealth of knowledge from Yazaki mentors helped the students link classroom lessons with real-world applications as they toured NAIAS for over two hours.
"These students have the opportunity to see up close the vehicles and technologies that will shape the future automotive landscape," said Doug Burcicki, BSEE ’93, chief engineer in engineering operations for Yazaki and member of the WSU College of Engineering Board of Visitors.
Yazaki was looking to gain knowledge as well, as the company used the event to conduct market research for a fresh perspective on the automotive space from the next generation.
"This is our chance to learn from the students, pick their brains and see what makes millennials different," said Burcicki.
Spending the day with Yazaki engineers gave the students plenty to consider regarding their own futures.
“I originally wanted to go into the power electronics field, so the biggest takeaway for me was learning about electrical engineering in the auto industry, because I didn’t have much insight about it,” said Thornhill. “There’s a lot of career pathways for electrical engineers in the auto industry, and that’s one of the most important things I learned from this experience.”
A Flint native, Jacks said he’s been around car culture his whole life. His father worked for over 30 years at General Motors, and his sister works there today. While he is currently completing a co-op at DTE Energy, Jacks could see himself in the auto industry, especially after observing how passionate Yazaki engineers were about their profession.
“They told us to stay curious and find something that you love to do,” said Jacks.
Photos and quotes from Doug Burcicki courtesy of Yazaki North America, Inc.