Industrial Technology—Vehicle Design

The Industrial Technology — Vehicle Design program prepares graduates for design, product development and manufacturing in the automotive, marine, aerospace, composites, and alternative fuel industries. The program uses hands-on vehicle research, design and development projects to educate students, and students gain an understanding of the tools, materials and processes used in industry. 

Vehicle designers draft layouts for automobile components, assemblies, and systems using sketches, models, and prototypes from their knowledge of engineering principles, based on automobile function. The work of an auto designer combines artistry with technical and scientific know-how. The finished designs incorporate aesthetic and functional concerns within the practical framework of business and manufacturing.

Western is also home to the Vehicle Research Institute (VRI). The institute focuses on complete vehicle design and fabrication and developing hybrid electrical and natural gas/biomethane vehicle technology. More than 50 vehicles have been built by VRI students since 1972.

The Engineering and Design Department is part of the College of Science and Engineering.


Beyond the Classroom

During their senior year, Industrial Technology-Vehicle Design students design and implement a project of their choosing, integrating their coursework in a self-directed culminating project. Check out projects that students recently have worked on.

Vehicle Research Institute student teams have set records around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, up Pike’s Peak and across the Australian Outback with a class win in the 1990 World Solar Challenge. A recent team was the only U.S. university-based team in the finals of the Progressive Automotive X Prize — a $10 million prize to build a 100-mile per gallon car. NASA has also displayed a Western vehicle at its Ames Research Labs in California.

Western has two student academic clubs housed within the Vehicle Research Institute that compete in national competitions: WWU Formula SAE and WWU SAE Baja. Participation on both teams provides excellent interdisciplinary, hands-on learning experiences, along with professional networking opportunities. 

Careers and Graduate Studies

Graduates enter a wide range of industry sectors including: automotive, racing, aerospace, marine, heavy duty vehicle, composites, prototype design and manufacturing, computer numerically controlled machining and biofuels. Vehicle Design alumni hold positions with all the major automotive equipment manufacturers and custom car-building companies, as well as positions as stylists. 

Employers of Recent Western Graduates: 

  • Aircraft Rubber Manufacturing: R&D Engineer 
  • Bullfrog Boat’s Inc.: Concept Designer and Main Assembler 
  • Honda 
  • Girodisc: Assembly Technician 
  • GM 
  • Metal Crafters 
  • Nissan Design 
  • PACCAR Technical Center: Materials Coordinator 
  • Porsche 
  • SpaceX
  • Toyota 
  • Volvo


Requirements and Course Details

To learn more about this program, including grade requirements, a course listing, how to declare the major, and more, see the Program of Study Details.


Sample Careers

  • Stylists 
  • Performance and Development 
  • Custom Car Building 
  • OBD Validation Engineer

College of Science and Engineering (was Sciences and Technology)