As we saw with Conquest Vehicles, armored vehicles with windows do not come cheap. That's why if you and six of your squadmates are sitting in the back of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle with the door closed, your only view is of armor plating. And the lack of windows has a potentially deleterious effect beyond promoting motion sickness: You have no idea what you're about to step into when the ramp drops open and you're meant to deploy.
That's why the U.S. Army's TARDEC (Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center) put a bunch of ID students from the Transportation Design program at Detroit's College for Creative Studies in the same room with experienced Army officers and soldiers for a brainstorming session. One result is the Virtual Window concept, whereby a super-durable 46-inch flatscreen is mounted to the interior of the rear ramp; it's basically a back-up camera with a big-ass screen strong enough for soldiers to stomp over while they pile outside. "The video feed from the camera appears on the display, which gives soldiers the ability to see outside the vehicle with the ramp closed," explains TARDEC engineer Andrew Kerbrat. "This visual situational awareness could be a game-changer in how the Soldier proceeds out of the vehicle."
Of interest is that this particular "Innovations Solutions Training Event," as it was called, wasn't spread over a semester but was instead crammed into just three days. By all accounts the CCS students were up to the task:
[Warrant Officer] Charles Fannin commented on the design session's aggressive agenda. "I thought, 'Wow, how can we talk about ideas and solutions and have them drawn up or visualized in such a short amount of time?' [But] It was fascinating. As we were talking, things were being drawn up instantly with concepts and designs. I'm just in awe of what the students were capable of doing."
CCS Transportation Design Associate Professor Thomas Roney said that kind of collaboration is essential to the process. "It gets people who maybe aren't used to being together all in the same room bouncing ideas off each other. You get some better ideas out than you probably would have without that happening," Roney noted.
TARDEC engineers will review about 140 sketches to identify potential ideas that could move forward.
While the format of the highly-compressed brainstorming session was new, it isn't the first time TARDEC and CCS have collaborated; at least one student, in fact, got a job out of it. James Scott was a CCS student back in 2010 who participated in an earlier team-up, and he's now been hired as an industrial designer on TARDEC's Advanced Concepts team. (He's the guy who did the rendering seen above.) And as a former design student who's presumably sat in on his share of brutal design crits, he knows the math: "At the end of the day, 80 percent of the ideas are unfeasible," he says, "but perhaps 20 percent have nuggets of innovation that could be further investigated."
There is at least one thing I'd like to see design schools develop as a result of collaborations like these: It ought to be integrated into crit sessions that if you turn in a crappy rendering, all of the other students do push-ups.