DENSO Foundation gifts OU with $30,000 grant

A $30,000 grant from the DENSO North America Foundation will support multiple programs and enhance educational opportunities for students in Oakland University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The funds will be used to provide Oakland’s award-winning Formula SAE team and Oakland Robotics Association (ORA) with professional-grade manufacturing equipment, according to Dr. Brian Sangeorzan, professor of mechanical engineering.

“This generous grant from DENSO North America Foundation will provide needed, state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment that will help our student teams compete with the best, and will better prepare them for careers in a globally competitive environment,” Dr. Sangeorzan said. “Our students compete against much larger schools, with more team members and much bigger budgets. This grant allows us to remain competitive.”

Comprised of more than 40 students from engineering and business majors, Oakland’s Formula SAE team competes in the International Formula SAE student design competition each year and is currently ranked 86th in the world, 18th in the nation and second in the state. For the competition, students operate a fictional manufacturing company and develop a formula-style racecar, which is evaluated for its potential as a production item. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype racecar based on a series of rules that promote innovative problem solving. The competition encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry, including research, design, manufacturing, testing, marketing, management and finance.

“These types of programs provide an invaluable experience to students – combining teamwork, real engineering design and hands-on experience. Students not only take everything they have learned and apply it, but they are also challenged to decide for themselves what new topics they need to learn. I cannot think of an experience that better prepares students for their careers.”

In addition, the Formula SAE chapter takes part in many other events, including the Woodward Dream Cruise, Concours d’Elegance of America, Rockin’ Rods in Rochester and the SAE World Congress at Cobo Center in Detroit. For the past four years, their formula style racecars have been displayed at the North American International Auto Show held at Cobo Center. In 2014, one of their vehicles was showcased on the center’s main level as part of the DENSO exhibit. 

“It’s important for these students to work with technology, to get creative in their problem solving and to learn all aspects of the industry – from research and design to manufacturing and marketing,” said Doug Patton, president of the DENSO North America Foundation and executive vice president of Engineering at DENSO International America. “These are the students who will be driving innovation and the future of our auto industry.”

With more than 20 members, the Oakland Robotics Association participates in the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, which challenges teams to build and operate autonomous robotic vehicles on an outdoor course with defined lanes, GPS waypoints and obstacles. The four-day event, held annually on Oakland’s campus, was co-founded in 1993 by OU engineering professor KaC Cheok and the U.S. Army. The ORA has won the competition’s top prize the past two years, beating dozens of collegiate robotics teams from around the world.

This is the DENSO North America Foundation’s second $30,000 grant to OU since fall 2013. In addition to this grant, the foundation is supporting a two-year research project in OU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science with a grant of up to roughly $180,000 total. The project aims to develop an information management framework for capturing, processing, indexing, tagging and mining sensor data gathered by specially-designed vehicles used in research and development of technologies and algorithms for autonomous, self-driving cars.

DENSO is a leading supplier of advanced automotive technology, systems and components for the world’s major automakers. Founded in 2001, the DENSO North America Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) corporate foundation that provides grants to colleges and universities to help students advance their education in engineering, technology and other related programs. For more information, visit