Engineering mobility solutions with a purpose
New technology is designed to improve people’s lives. As a mechanical engineering PhD student working at The Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR), Danny Freudiger is taking this goal to the next level.
When Freudiger was searching for a PhD program, he chose to attend Ohio State because of its research opportunities, specifically at CAR. Freudiger researched batteries at Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate student, and he was excited to continue that focus at CAR through its multiple hybrid and EV research projects.
One of his latest projects focuses on battery pack design and control optimization for heavy duty trucks, specifically delivery vehicles. These vehicles can use route preview and traffic information to enhance energy efficiency.
But Freudiger isn’t only interested in creating new technology; he believes that technology’s main purpose should be to help people.
“The most rewarding thing—and this circles back to why I got into engineering in the first place—is that I get to use my skills to build something and see it impact people,” Freudiger said. “The project provides a lot of motivation and purpose when it puts the people first.”
With the help of other students and advisers at CAR, Freudiger founded the Smart Campus student group in fall 2017, a multidisciplinary organization that develops innovative solutions through collaborative efforts and project-based teams to improve the Ohio State community.
In autumn 2018, another Ohio State student group called the Food Recovery Network reached out to Smart Campus to see if there were opportunities for collaboration. The Food Recovery Network repurposes leftover food that would otherwise be thrown away from various dining locations and cafes into the community through local food pantries.
Freudiger looked at the group’s existing data collection system and suggested a technology platform to improve the overall system efficiency and more accurately track the food being donated. The two student groups teamed up to create Wasted Opportunities, a culmination of technology and food recovery. Wasted Opportunities won the Ohio State Energy Partners Smart Campus Challenge and earned $54,000 to further refine the project.
In the future, Freudiger hopes to expand the group’s presence on campus and partner with other Columbus-based restaurants and nonprofits.
When I think of a smart city or campus that’s driven through technology, it should solve real problems,” Freudiger said. “We can’t make solutions for technology’s sake; we should make solutions to help people. That’s the core of a smart idea.”
by Jake Berg, CAR Writing Intern