Berkley Designer Makes His Mark at Auto Show
A Berkley High School grad's futuristic concept vehicle is on display at 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
When it comes to showcasing Detroit’s automotive innovations, look no further than Berkley resident Jason Falenski.
A Lawrence Technological University exhibit at the 2011 North American International Auto Show, which wraps up this weekend, shares Falenski's ideas and those of his peers.
Falenski, 31, developed a shiny, red Ford Sidewinder by imagining what the Batmobile might resemble beyond Gotham’s pavement. The research engineer, who works with Altair Engineering in Dearborn, used a hybrid-turbine propulsion for a machine that could scale water, sand, snow or mud.
NAIAS visitors will be able to check out the LTU exhibit, which features miniature vehicles, sketches and designers, until 7 p.m. Sunday at the north (Congress) end of Cobo Center.
Falenski, who has extensive experience as a design engineer for Ford and General Motors Corp., returned to school to develop ideas for urban electric transportation. He already held four associate degrees — in computer-assisted design, computer-assisted engineering, liberal arts and general studies — when he decided on LTU in Southfield to advance his dream with a bachelor's degree. He graduates in June.
Each year, LTU students design a vehicle geared to a theme. As a freshman, Falenski led the Formula Zero team that created an award-winning go-cart using hydrogen fuel and an electric motor.
“The initial design started with someone else’s John Deere-like tractor motif, which we revised,” he said. Working with classmates Dave Boehmer and Chris Nichols, each provided key input in the final design, called Element One. “The end result was more like an F-22 Raptor” fighter jet, Falenski said.
In fact, the team’s design placed first in worldwide competition — touring Germany, the Netherlands and several other European countries.
“Our impact was felt,” he said. “It’s evident by the current designs in use that it inspired.”
Other pivotal Falenski projects included a rural electric-and-propane vehicle. The challenge, he said, was coming up with an environmentally minded idea that also allowed for typically accessible rural energy, such as propane, as backup.
Falenski, a 1997 Berkley High School grad, focused on drafting and pre-engineering as a high schooler. His drafting teacher forecast a bright future for him in computer-assisted design.
LTU began using Dassault Systèmes’ CATIA (pronounced ka-teeah) — a computer-aided, 3-D interactive application — that Falenski mastered in a half hour, according to the firm. His customized vehicle shapes, featuring cutouts and futuristic details, were created in half the time that would have been possible with traditional design.
LTU was the first U.S. college to use CATIA as a design standard. CATIA "allows play with shapes … flat or 2-D designs to be made 3-D,” a Dassault press release said.
Falenski urges students to consider art studies.
With the merging of art, drafting and technology, “Don’t rule it out as a way to get places,” he said. “You can build on art nowadays.”