Throughout the summer, Alexander Guinn will rack up quite of few miles in his Ford Transit Connect, driving back and forth from his home in Overland Park to the Center of Design and Research (CDR) at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Guinn is splitting his time working and preparing for automotive projects at CDR for the coming semester and working at Dimensional Innovations in Overland Park.
Majoring in industrial design, Guinn has plenty of reasons to be excited for the start of his junior year at KU.
In April, Guinn learned he was one of five students in the United States to receive the first Alan Mulally Leadership in Engineering Scholarship. Guinn will get a one-time, $10,000 scholarship.
In addition, he will get to work on a project that Ford gives him.
“It is going to really influence my education,” Guinn said. “But it is a lot more than just the money. Ford will hand off a research and development packet and they go, ‘Hey, what if you looked into this.’
“They give what they have and then step back and we can dream and come up with crazy solutions that maybe they haven’t thought of.”
The Alan Mulally Leadership in Engineering Scholarship is a $1 million program that honors the company’s former CEO by providing financial assistance to outstanding students pursuing degrees in the field of automotive engineering.
Mulally served as president and CEO at Ford from 2006 to June 30, 2014.
The Alan Mulally Leadership in Engineering Scholarship program will award 10 one-time $10,000 scholarships each year to outstanding sophomore or junior engineering students at premier partner universities around the world. The program will run for 10 years starting in spring 2015. Funding for the program will consist of $500,000 from Ford Motor Company and $500,000 from Ford Motor Company Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm.
“This is very important to us,” said Farah Harb, education programs coordinator for the Ford Motor Company Fund, in a telephone interview. “Education is one of our main initiatives that we focus on. Alan left a legacy behind after he left. We wanted to honor him. We said why not do a scholarship program because it makes a difference in student’s lives and helps students complete their education.”
Each year, over the next 10 years, five students in the United States and five students from abroad will receive the one-time scholarship.
“Prior to launching the program, we created a committee and we decided the schools can change, the countries can change,” Harb said. “It is so we can take the scholarship to different schools and different countries. Next year it can be different.
“We pick the school and give them the criteria and we leave it up to the school to select the student.”
KU was an obvious choice as one of the schools in the first year because that is where Mulally received his undergraduate degree, said Harb.
Guinn said when the scholarship was announced to the engineering and industrial design students at KU there was a lot of excitement about it, especially when the $10,000 figure was given.
“For me, what I was really attracted to was the prestige of the scholarship,” Guinn said. “It connects you to Ford Motor Company. That is something I am really excited about.
“I hope I can turn the contacts at least into an internship or maybe a job going forward. I can’t think of a company I would want to work more with. I think the Ford Motor Company has such a history with innovations with automobiles. I think they made America love the automobile.”
Guinn has been curious about engineering and design of various products since he was 11 years old. The spark, he said, was ignited when he watched a video called Deep Dive by IDEO.
“IDEO is an innovative company in California,” Guinn said. “They invented the computer mouse. They talked about having an innovative vision on creating things.
“What I took from that video is never saying no to an idea because it could become the next world-changing idea, have an open mind and make everything human centered. Really, looking at what people need and want from a product and trying to design for people instead of an engineer solution.”
During Guinn’s high school years, he attended Kansas City Christian and Blue Valley Caps (Center for Advanced Professional Studies). Students in Blue Valley Caps are fast forwarded into their future and fully immersed in a professional culture, solving real-world problems, using industry standard tools and are mentored by actual employers, all while receiving high school and college credit.
“I point to a lot of my development to that program,” Guinn said. “They are focusing on people who want to be an engineer or in business.”
Engineering and design is a passion for Guinn. One of the reasons he picked KU was because of CDR.
“What is amazing about this program is the mixing of students in engineering, design and business, which normally don’t bump shoulders in college,” Guinn said. “In this building, there is a mixing of around 30 students in each class. I was on a team with some engineers, designers and people with all sorts of business background.
“It was amazing to see how to work on a professional project like in the real world where we are thinking with people in other disciplines. The ideas will be better because it is collaborative.”
The Ford Motor Company has done a lot with CDR on different projects, Guinn said. Inside the CDR building is half of a Ford car that Guinn and other students work on, coming up with ideas to enhance the driving experience.
Guinn admits he spends many hours inside the CDR building.
“There are nights I am here all night long,” Guinn said. “I love it. I practically lived here last semester. It is the great thing about this facility; we get the run of it and get done what needs to be done.”
Guinn will be working on the project that Ford gave him on connected cars during the fall semester. A connected car allows the car to share Internet access with other devices both inside and outside the vehicle.
“Where do you see technology going and how can we put more technology in a car to make it a better experience to be driven in a seamless integrated technology,” Guinn said of the things he will be working on in the fall. “That is one of my passions. How can we have technology in our lives without it being dominant? Make it subtle where you don’t really think about it, but it is there for you.”
The car, Guinn said, is the pinnacle of engineering and design.
“They are increasingly providing entertainment and navigation,” Guinn said. “I continue to be fascinated by the automobile because there is so much going on.
“I’m excited to start this project. I’d love for this to be an amazing project and get some more attention from Ford and potentially go work for Ford in the future.”