Lockheed Martin challenges engineers to build a car in 1 day

200 Silicon Valley engineers who work on top secret military space systems got to test their problem-solving skills on Tuesday.
December 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Some Silicon Valley engineers who work on top secret military space systems got to test their problem-solving skills on Tuesday. Lockheed Martin challenged them to a down-to-earth project -- building a car in one day. And they made their deadline -- nine hours later.

Engineers are always fond of saying they're up for a new challenge and executives at Lockheed Martin came up with a way to push them out of their comfort zone. A car was the right vehicle to do that.

Lifting off a tarp isn't quite as dramatic as a spacecraft liftoff, which is a routine part of their work, but the engineers couldn't be happier about how this day-long project ended.

"My name is Amanda Foo, and I'm a rocket design manager here at Lockheed Martin," said Amanda Foo. She admitted she previously knew nothing about building a car.

The 200 engineers started out their day knowing nothing about how to build a car and their goal was to build one rated to go 100 miles per gallon. It was a team building exercise by Lockheed Martin to inspire its engineers to rev up their creative juices and get them to be better problem solvers.

"It means that failure is not an option. They have to very quickly pick up the task, find their way through it, make sure they're doing it correctly the first time because there's really no time for them to cycle back through it, and even in the normal products we build that take much longer, that's still a truism that they have to live with," said Tory Bruno, the strategic & missile defense systems vice president.

This wasn't designed to be a simple assembly process. Curves were thrown in to create challenges.

"We have about four inches of error in the drive assembly, so we have to adjust where the tires are, adjust where the wheel assemblies are and adjust ultimately where the engine is," said engineer Ray Deiotte. When asked if it was easy to fix, he replied, "Easy-ish. Easier than the body."

The car itself is a prototype created by WIKISPEED -- an organization working toward a highly efficient commuter car. A buyer has paid $25,000 to take the team assembled vehicle home. And by working all day on a team, Lockheed Martin employees hope to walk away with new skills to use in their daily work.

"My group does a lot of supply chain strategy, so if we can see how things are built, see what the parts do that our group is buying, it really helps us understand, how we contribute to the organization," said Matt D'Ambria from Lockheed Martin's procurement team.


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