By Jerome Aliotta, GVSC Public Affairs

DETROIT--Transportation design students from the College for Creative Studies briefed their interior design concepts for the next generation combat vehicle to engineers from the U.S. Army CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center last week.

This was the culmination of a 13-week GVSC-sponsored course called Soldier Innovation Studio to support the Army in its mission to update interiors for optimum crew positions and technologies for semi-autonomous combat vehicles. The student designs will help to inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team with what the inside of the next tank should look like in 2035.

As advances in automation and sensor technology enhance protection and increase awareness of surroundings for combat vehicle Soldiers, they simultaneously threaten to dampen Soldiers' analogue abilities and overwhelm them with information.

"We are excited to be able to work with the students from CCS and take advantage of their knowledge of design and their work with the automotive industry," said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, Director of the NGCV CFT. "Their work will absolutely make future combat vehicles better."

For the student project, eight combat vehicle Soldiers from the Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence provided students with input on optimum crew positions and what technology advances would make operating the vehicle in combat situations easier and more effective. They gave first-hand experience on what works and what doesn't.

Soldiers said going forward they want interiors with more comfortable and maneuverable seating and advanced user interfaces for quick and reliable control panels. They want the ability to communicate with crews when the radio malfunctions, efficient climate control, as well as a safer way to enter and exit the tank in case of emergency. Soldiers said they also want to have the ability to control the vehicle manually in case of vehicle damage or technology malfunctions.

Junior transportation design student Andrew Beauchamp said he enjoyed the unique experience of designing capabilities for a big armored vehicle.

"It was fun working with a tank; we normally work on cars," said Beauchamp, who took second place for his design concepts.

"It would be really cool to see our stuff out there on the battlefield sometime down the road, making the lives for Soldiers better and easier."

Senior Arianna Quan, who was awarded an honorable mention for her designs, said she appreciated the challenge of addressing the utilitarian aspect of designing a tank interior while giving it a "little pizzazz."

"It was both fun and challenging to go into a tank, not knowing how to use it, the process for using the controls, and trying to imagine what it feels like to be under attack. It was really overwhelming at first; I couldn't make sense of it. But it ended up being a fun opportunity."

CCS Transportation Design Professor Thomas Roney said students for the first time since these workshops began in 2012 were given the challenge to build a working physical model of their design.

"They learned how to build these and experiment with them. That will be a valuable skill to have down the road," Roney said.

The other design award winners are CCS students Ray Gonet Jr., first place, and Tom Luan, third.