How A Summer Day Improved My Winter Testing

A hot afternoon at the lake inspired GM Engineer Nicholas Jahn to create a method for improved cabin warmth in the cold.

snowAs an engineer at GM, my day job is a huge part of my life. But as is the case with many of my colleagues, I have a more important job to worry about once I punch the clock – being a parent. It’s no surprise, then that many of us find inspiration in things our children do, say, or yes, sometimes ruin, and take those lessons back to our day job at GM. And some of these sources can be really surprising.

My moment of epiphany came at a very ironic time. As a GM Vehicle Thermal Systems engineer, one of my main responsibilities is making sure your car can warm the interior cabin as quickly as possible in the dead of winter. So you would never expect my moment to come while I was swimming in the lake behind my house on a hot summer day, but that’s exactly what happened.

I was out swimming with my one-year-old daughter, Ava, when it soon became very apparent that we had forgotten to put her in a swim diaper before taking her into the water. It was so apparent because shortly after coming in contact with the water, her diaper began to grow in size very quickly. Out of pure curiosity, I decided to look into what material caused this to happen.

After some internet searching, I came across sodium polyacrylate, the material responsible for absorbing the moisture in diapers, and found that it was commonly used as a substitute for snow for holiday decorations and hobbies like model trains and dioramas.

I quickly ordered a sample and after some testing, I realized that sodium polyacrylate not only looked just like snow, but also shared the packing and, most importantly, insulating properties of snow. After talking it over with my colleagues, we then developed a test using the material, which you can read more about here.

Being a parent can open your eyes up to many new things in life, many of which you may never expect. But as with anything, it’s what you learn from experiences that is the most important part. We at GM want to build vehicles that can handle anything life throws at them, which is why we take inspiration from places you’d least expect it, and use it to design, build, and sell the world’s best vehicles.

Stolen from https://fastlane.gm.com

 

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