OAKVILLE - Cars, gadgets and exciting technology are a winning combination for any student of engineering. Students in the University of Manitoba’s Automotive Engineering program got the chance to hear about exactly that from Gil Portalatin, Ford Motor Company’s chief program engineer, when he came present on Ford’s sustainability and electrification strategy at the university on Oct. 2, 2013.
Portalatin spoke to a group of 80 people at the university, comprised of students, faculty and members of the industry, giving them his personal insight on what it’s like to be leading the areas of electrification and sustainability in the automotive industry.
“It’s important that I’m here speaking to the next generation of engineers. I’m passionate about developing future talent and Ford vehicles,” said Portalatin. “I know personally that when you enter this field there is something in you that draws you to keep learning, innovating and creating.”
Students also got some insight into the Ford’s efforts in fuel-efficiency, including Portalatin’s industry-leading work on hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle systems. Portalatin discussed at length Ford’s electrified lineup and the differences between the powertrains. He also spoke about the company’s use of sustainable materials like recycled plastic bottles, jeans and soybeans inside the vehicles, as well as sustainable and environmentally responsible manufacturing practices.
“Our students are thrilled to have the chance to learn firsthand from one of the world leaders in electrification,” said Ed Hohenberg, P.Eng., engineer-in-residence at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Engineering. “We are excited to deepen our relationship with Ford. It’s the kind of event that raises the bar for our students and gives them real world insight into the kinds of jobs they’ll be doing.”
Portalatin is the second Ford executive to have visited the University of Manitoba campus in the last three years. One of the highlights of his visit was to see how the students are progressing with their own experimental vehicles. The University of Manitoba chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (UMSAE), the second largest in North America, has four teams - Aero Design, Baja, Formula Electric and Formula - each of which designs and builds a unique vehicle. The organization gives students a fast-paced, hands-on experience in conquering design and manufacturing challenges.
“The future of automotive engineering is in student groups like this one,” said Portalatin. “The University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Engineering is heading in the right direction by teaching its students the importance of sustainability.”