As the transportation industry drives further towards autonomous and electrification, educational curriculums must advance to properly train those that will be designing, building and servicing the future of mobility.

The NEXT Education services has filled 10, week-long educational programs that introduce students from fifth through ninth grades to how autonomous vehicles are created. The program is designed for students interested in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math).

“We were hearing from the industry there was a lack of future talent and a path to enter these new careers,” said Elaina Farnsworth, CEO of The NEXT Education. “So we asked ourselves, what if we started a pipeline where young students can develop those talents and relate to the jobs that are available to them after school?”

Farnsworth worked with her team and educators within the K-12 community to revise content developed for working professionals and adjusted it to a student in a STEM-related program.

The students are supplied with a small autonomous car kit that is used as an instructional tool to teach the importance of engineering, coding, design, materials and even testing to make their car work properly. The kit includes a small camera and sensors that allow the vehicle to see objects and read the lines of a scaled-down road, just like a full-sized autonomous car would.

The five-day course begins with an introduction to available careers in mobility. From there, students will work on their autonomous cars, coding, building and testing. The kit allows them to choose their own components and even do their own soldering of electrical connections. The students demonstrate their finished product on the fourth day where the vehicle must accurately drive through a set course.

“We really try to emphasize the importance of design and testing,” Farnsworth noted. “Testing is such a critical part of the development and deployment of the vehicle. We try to deliver a live experience of what can happen if something for example isn’t coded properly, students need to understand what went wrong and why because it’s no different than in a full-size vehicle.”

The program ends with a field trip to supplier or manufacturer where students might ride in a fully autonomous vehicle, experience a simulation and see how their project vehicle relates to the real world of mobility and a future career.

The program is offered through various schools throughout southeast Michigan and fees vary depending on the level of sponsorship of a given program.

For more information contact The NEXT Education online or at 248-516-0705.