Art Center and SABIC ‘Design for Alpha’ Competition Winners Announced

SABIC Innovative Plastics and the Art Center College of Design (ACCD) announced the winners of a three-month long project and competition, which focused on where automotive design is headed through 2030 and beyond.

The SABIC-sponsored project, known as Design for Alpha, challenged ACCD students to design an innovative vehicle for Generation Alpha (anyone born after 2010). Students drew inspiration from SABIC’s range of thermoplastic materials and solutions for the automotive industry to design vehicles intended to meet the needs of a new generation.

“Integrating material and process with design was an invaluable learning experience for our students,” said David O’Connell, Art Center instructor and former chief designer for Mitsubishi Motors of North America. “A designer needs to think about how any idea or concept will actually come to life, so it’s important to explore what types of materials and processes are needed for new product development. Keeping these considerations front of mind early on during the evolution of a vehicle is crucial to success.”

Though autonomous driving was a common theme, the students’ interpretations for Generation Alpha’s desires resulted in diverse approaches. The concepts explored needs ranging from high-speed commuting and off-road adventuring to urban mobility and public transport, offering a glimpse of where the automotive design industry may be headed in the future.


The jury consisted of 14 professionals from seven major OEM design studios including Freeman Thomas, Jeremy Leng, Jordan Meadows and Lon Zaback from Ford; Frank Saucedo and Heidi Bliss from General Motors; Jacques Flynn from Mazda; John Sahs from Nissan; Masahikio Kobayashi and Matthew Wherry from Subaru; Lauren Szczesny from Tesla; Jae Min from Volkswagen; Ruben Perfetti from Gulfstream Aerospace; Scott Fallon and Geert Schellekens from SABIC and Stewart Reed from Art Center.

Hotspot Urban Base (HUB) Concept – First Place

John McCarthy’s Hotspot Urban Base, a shape-shifting vehicle with a giant ‘live hinge’ door, took home the First Grand Award – a $5000 scholarship towards his studies at Art Center.

Built upon the idea that Gen Aers will be more immersed in technology and have higher expectations for connectivity than any other generation, McCarthy’s autonomous vehicle merges the digital and physical lives of its three passengers into one simple environment and allows for engaging digital experiences.

The flexible design allows for its polyhedron 3D structure to morph into an almost infinite number of shapes and different levels of stiffness, similar to muscle fibers pulling and contracting as a skeletal structure.

McCarthy was lauded for his concept’s flexing ‘live hinge’ door made of ultra-lightweight polymers; the personalized three passenger interior made of ultra-soft, flexible shape memory polymers; and freeform 3D-printed lithium ion batteries that employ thermoplastic materials so they could be mounted into the vehicle’s fenders and cooled.

Four weeks into the competition John broke his sketching hand while replacing the oil pan gasket on his 1972 BMW 2002. His hand was set in a cast for the next five weeks. Though he could not sketch, he used that time to develop a well thought-out and well-researched concept, which clearly paid off in the eyes of the jury.


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