College of Engineering works with major automakers, tier-1 suppliers

The College of Engineering and Science has been around 105 years — almost as long as the automobile itself. And the college is currently working on major projects with automakers and suppliers that will help the next generation of cars and trucks. 

One such collaboration, the Denso Project, involves students put together a thermal system test bench; basically an air conditioning system for a  minivan. 

Denso is a tier 1 supplier to the auto industry

All of the components are all instrumented to enable students to measure temperatures, pressures, flow rates, etc. to teach engineers about thermal sciences (fluid, mechanics, heat transfer, thermal dynamics, etc.) Funding came from the Denso Foundation. 

The DENSO Foundation is interested in doing great things in the community and helping education throughout the Southeast Michigan area. They offer a grant opportunity to universities like Detroit Mercy to add equipment that it might not otherwise have gotten.

“This is a charitable non-profit organization that’s been very, very friendly to Detroit Mercy,” said Dr. Darrell Kleinke, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering. 

It took a year to create the Denso Project, Professor Mark Schumack said. Faculty from the college met with Denso engineers and put together a design for this piece of equipment.

“The grant paid for most of the equipment and Denso technicians put together the apparatus, tested it, and then delivered it to us over the period of a year,” said Schumack.

What sparked their interest in creating this project? The engineering building just recently opened the “CASEE” (Center for Automotive Systems Engineering Education) lab and in that lab, the engineering department would like to have several test devices that our students can come in and learn about automotive components, such as heating, ventilating, and air conditioning. They also have stations in there that are related to chassis (wheels/tires, body systems, electrical systems, etc.), so their interest in this particular project was another demonstration of components.

Ultimately, many of Detroit Mercy’s engineering students, both electrical and mechanical, end up working for Denso, so there’s a great relationship between the two groups. 

“We worked with the Denso engineers and now we have a couple of students (David Walton and Salman Saleh) in the engineering program to help us put it together, troubleshoot it, and get it ready for student experiments in the winter. We’re also going to integrate it into existing engineering labs, so for several experiments in the heat transfer lab, fluids lab, and also, thermal dynamic students will go down to the Denso machine to do experiments there,” Schumack said.

The purpose of test devices like Denso, rather than students just learning out of textbooks and reading about how they operate, they can actually go down there and feel the air coming out of the device. They can also listen to it for noise, vibration, and harshness. 

Along with the Denso project, the engineering program has projects related to the entire electrical system of a vehicle. 

“We actually build our own vehicles down there. Now, they’re not automobiles, but they’re competition vehicles, like the Shell Eco Challenge (where students build a one-man/woman vehicle to find out the max milage they could get out of a small vehicle),” Kleinke said. 

The engineering students are also putting in something called “Hardware In-The-Loop Testing,” which allows engineers to either simulate things on the computer or can test hardware in the laboratory. Hardware In-The-Loop Testing combines those two things, so when they run experiments, half of it would be simulation, while the other half is actually running real hardware.