student in a handmade go-cart
Featured Course

Vehicle Mechanical

In Vehicle Mechanical, students team up to build a functional one-person, motor-driven kart out of wood and hardware. In this exploratory, immersive course, the automobile is dissected and presented as a series of systems, mechanisms and devices. By ideating, drawing, creating scale models, using the school's wood shop and off-the-shelf parts, students develop a hands-on understanding of vehicle mechanics while creating a drivable vehicle they built from scratch.

Interview with Instructor Nathan Allen

ArtCenter: How would you describe this class to a prospective student?
Nathan Allen: Vehicle Mechanical gives students an opportunity to build a powered vehicle they can ride on and experience. Powered by a cordless drill, everything else is figured out and built out of wood and assembled with nuts and bolts.

AC: What inspired the direction you took with the curriculum for this class?
NA: I want students to have hands-on experience building a vehicle so they get a real understanding of the function of design. Building something that needs different components to work together helps students understand the reason behind the design and function. And figuring out how to build something that you use challenges you to not only make it work, but refine the design around the experience and feel. I also want students to make something they can get excited about.

Gallery

Students learn invaluable hands-on techniques

As transportation design student, I believe it's important to understand the basic principles of how a car works because eventually we will design something that actually can run on the road.

Jinhan WangTransportation Design Student

AC: Can you describe the design of the karts?
NA: This project is about building a functioning kart. I discourage students from doing any styling over designing. For this class, design is about simplifying. Since ArtCenter has an extensive wood shop, these vehicles are built entirely of wood and hardware, then a drive motor is fitted into the design.

AC: What are some of the most unique vehicles students have designed?
NA: A team of two designed a vehicle with the steering, throttle and braking system done entirely by levers. This control configuration came out of simplicity, and the vehicle was a blast to drive.

AC: What are some of the assignments and materials that challenge students to break new ground creatively?
NA: The creativity comes from students having to figure out how to make complicated mechanics simple, and they become very resourceful building with the materials they have around them.

AC: What were some of the most surprising ways students responded to assignments?
NA: The students tend to work at a normal pace until the first team gets a kart running. After that, everyone in the class gets really excited. When the class ends, it usually takes about 20 minutes to get everyone to stop working. Students also really like finding solutions to problems. I can tell they've been thinking of ways to solve something all week and are very excited to try it.

hand painting portrait of a woman

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