Take Note

April 16, 1997 1 min read

Future car

Would you want a family car with heated cup warmers, passenger weight sensors to regulate the airbag speed, and a glowing 3-D display instead of standard gauges?

A group of students at Eisenhower High School in Auburn Hills, Mich., think you would--especially if you belong to the “millennium generation” that turns 18 in 2000 and anticipates driving their 21st-century offspring to soccer practice.

The Eisenhower students put those features in the futuristic minivan design that recently won the Detroit-area “Build Your Dream Vehicle” contest, sponsored by Chrysler Corp. This year, Chrysler expanded the 3-year-old contest to seven metropolitan areas across the country, up from three cities last year. The company hopes the contest will encourage young people to enter automotive careers.

The students’ design won not because of the vehicle’s sleek contours or glitzy gadgetry--the seven other finalists had similar assets--but because of the superiority of their market research, said Jim Allen, the team’s coach.

Over a three-month period, 19 students drawn from the school’s drafting, marketing, art, and psychology classes surveyed hundreds of teenagers and other people about what they’d like in a car in the next 20 years, said Mr. Allen, who teaches computer-aided design. They also consulted market and demographic studies on the Internet.

Their research led to one truly novel feature, Mr. Allen said. The minivan design has modular body panels that could be replaced to convert it into a sporty pickup truck--a feature tomorrow’s parents said they would relish after their children are grown.

Voters revolt

Voters in the Mount Laurel, N.J., school district have rejected a $28 million bond issue that would have built an elementary school and paid for improvements and expansions for other schools.

Last month’s vote followed a flap in which Mount Laurel teachers’ union President Chuck Fest called the town’s senior citizens “old coots” who should be sent to Atlantic City with a roll of quarters on election day. Mr. Fest eventually apologized for his comments. (“Take Note,” March 12, 1997.)

But the bond was defeated by a vote of 4,693 to 2,544. The K-8 school district of 4,000 students is now looking at options such as increasing class sizes.