Program puts students in the driver’s seat

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published December 23, 2015


WARREN — Sitting at a table Dec. 3 with pencils, markers and Vellum paper in front of them, Tyler Ciechanowski and Eduardo Walendowsky continued to brainstorm ideas for the Chevy Tahoe SUV design they were sketching.

Ciechanowski, a senior at Grosse Pointe North High School, is one of 33 students chosen to participate in a 22-week automotive sketching and sculpting course at the General Motors Technical Center. GM creative designer Walendowsky is his mentor.

“He’s doing great,” Walendowsky said. “I think he’s very talented.”

“I think it’s going great,” Ciechanowski said. “Eduardo is teaching me. Every week I know more about proportion, renderings and the important aspects of car design.”

Known as the You Make a Difference program, GM employees volunteer their time to mentor the students every Thursday evening for two hours. The GM Design Center Educational Relations team offers the program inside one of the design centers on campus.

The course meets from Oct. 22 through April 14 and is open to local students at various schools, including Malow Junior High in Shelby Township, Bloomfield Hills High School, Henry Ford II High School in Sterling Heights, L’Anse Creuse High School in Harrison Township, Seaholm High School in Birmingham and Oakland Christian School in Auburn Hills.

Justin Wentland, a senior at Harper Woods High School, for example, was one student chosen to attend after undergoing the application process. Warren Woods Tower High School junior Jonathan Forbush also made it through the selection process.

The students are designing a car with help from their assigned mentors. They are currently in the sketching stage. Once the students complete their renderings, they will begin the process of making clay model figures of their sketches.

Ciechanowski and Walendowsky were attempting to create a modern look for their vehicle.

“It’s got to look sharp,” Ciechanowski said. “The proportions have to be right. It has to meet the standards of the SUV.”

Ciechanowski and Walendowsky agreed that designers need to be creative and flexible, and must remember proportions. Car designers must be able to work with a team and continue to look for inspiration, Ciechanowski and Walendowsky  said.

The program has run for several years. Christos Roustemis, design lead for Cadillac Interiors, said the mentors don’t expect each student to become a car designer, but the program gives them a chance to discover their skills and talents.

“I’d like to think we’ve made a difference by helping start a discussion,” said Roustemis, the You Make a Difference lead mentor.

Roustemis said the students might find out this is the field they would to pursue or might discover “it might not be for them.”

He looks forward to the program every week.

“This is my favorite part of my week,” Roustemis said. “It’s all creative. I do love it.”

Also enjoying the program is Grosse Pointe South High School senior Zora Bowens, mentored by Malcolm Moorer.

“I like it a lot. It’s really cool. It’s kind of an honor to be here,” Bowens said. “It’s a really unique opportunity because generally you wouldn’t get the opportunity to work with all these mentors from all over the world, Thailand … Brazil and of course the people from here. You can see how the process is and get to see a little of GM. A lot of cars don’t get made because they are not practical.”

Bowens was “excited” when she found out that she was selected to be in the program. She has an interest in fashion photography, computer graphics, advertising and design in general.

“When I came in here, I couldn’t draw cars,” Bowens said. “Now I really like it. Now I look at cars more in depth.”