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Car Lab Tour Takes Me Back to My Roots 精选

已有 10843 次阅读 2008-4-21 15:05 |个人分类:My Life|系统分类:海外观察

A few weeks ago I visited Hunan University, which was like going back to my “roots” in two different ways. Changsha has a special place in my heart, of course, because that’s where I first came to China as an English teacher in 1985 (before many of you were born, I’m sure!)

 

But another way it reminded me of my US home town was when I got to visit the auto body design lab of Professor Wen Guilin, at Hunan U. This is a Key State Laboratory that is helping China rapidly build an advanced auto industry, and it was FASCINATING. I was able to contact Dr. Wen because he is a new editorial board member of an Elsevier journal called Journal of the Franklin Institute. (Go to the journal’s home page and see if you can identify the famous person on the cover of the journal!) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00160032

 

Why did this visit remind me of my roots? Because I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, home of carmakers like General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford. My father never worked in the auto industry, but many of my uncles and cousins did, and cars were a very important part of the economy and the lifestyle in my hometown.

 

Back then, America’s auto industry was king. Japanese makers weren’t yet on the world stage, and it wasn’t until I was in high school that a few people started buying Toyotas and Hondas (Lexus came later). But there were always certain parts of the city – near the auto factories, for example – where you didn’t want to drive your foreign car in case people got angry!

 

Today, of course, my hometown’s auto industry is fading fast, crippled not only from lack of innovation but also too much government support and also the huge financial burden of providing health care and fat pension packages for hundreds of thousands of retired workers.

 

China’s auto industry, on the other hand, is in an exciting, fast-paced stage, so going to Professor Wen’s lab was like stepping back in time to the high-flying days of Detroit. China’s car industry is definitely on the move!


    Myself and Dr. Wen in front of his lab, in the middle of campus

Dr. Wen’s team is not only figuring out ways to make cars better and safer, they’re also inventing cool new designs, like this one – this is a model of a concept car made out of Styrofoam – like a big toy!



               My colleague and Dr. Wen are getting a closer look

Here’s another concept car, this one traveled to the famous annual auto show in my hometown, Detroit.


         Very cool to have my two hometowns joined through cars!

Design is nice, but safety is the most important thing – here’s a new design for improved safety.


                           A new design for improved safety

Dr. Wen has a “crash test lab” where cars are smashed into walls at various speeds to test how well the body protects people inside. This car looked terrible, but Dr. Wen told us it was a “good”crash because the front end took all the force, leaving the passenger part mostly undamaged.


                                          A "good" trash

Dr. Wen is very modest, but even he could not resist showing us the important national awards the lab has won. I’m sure he’ll be getting many more awards in the future.



       Dr. Wen and the important national awards the lab has won

Someday, even people in my hometown, Detroit, will be driving cars not only MADE in China, but DESIGNED in China, too, thanks to researchers like Dr. Wen!



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