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Design behind the wheel

Dean Bakker presents his ideas at the Volvo design studios. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
December 01, 2010 - For the past five months, Dean Bakker's sketches have gone beyond the drawing board.

Bakker, a senior at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and Brandon High School graduate has been working with some of the top car designers at the Volvo Design Studio. Bakker received the chance to intern at the California base of Volvo design studios last spring when the designing director of the company, Peter Horbury, came to CCS.

"He saw one of my models, my sketches and all that and he really liked them," said Bakker, a major in automotive design.

"Next thing I knew, he was talking to me about doing an internship in LA," he said.

While working away at the prestigious internship for three months during the summer, the LA Design Challenge was brought up. "That was actually a surprise," said Bakker about the LA Auto Show Design Challange.

"[Some of the designers] were saying 'Yeah, maybe you can do the LA Design Challenge,' so I started sketching, they liked what I had done, and decided that I could compete in the challenge."

The LA Auto Show holds an annual Design Challenge that allows nine of the major Southern California auto design studios to compete for best original and groundbreaking car design, while allowing them to expand their creativity and explore new ideas for automotive design. This year, they expanded the event by allowing two new companies, from Germany and Japan, into the competition, making it an international affair. Nine design studios competed overall, including General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan. The car designers' final models were presented on Nov. 18 the day before the actual event.

"This presentation was just for the press and the designers. The actual LA Auto Show was the next day," said Bakker.

Being in its seventh year, the LA Design Challenge had to come up with a unique theme. The theme this year was to address society's shift toward minimizing consumption of the Earth's natural resources. In short, the nine competing companies had to create a car that was lightweight and used materials and a fuel source that did not harm the environment. The main requirement was for the car to be one thousand pounds or less in weight. "That was really tricky. The lightest car on the road today is way more than 1,000 pounds," said Bakker about coming up with an idea for such a light-weight car. The trick? Designing a model that runs on air.

The winners of the LA Design Challenge ended up being the General Motors Cadillac Aera and the Smart 454 WWT, the German-designed smart car.

Staff Writer Senior at Goodrich High, part of the marching band color guard, and excited to be a part of the Citizen Newspaper.
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