A Clemson University automotive engineer who teaches students many of the skills they need for careers in robotics and self-driving cars is winning an award that recognizes him as one of the nation’s top young engineering educators.
Yunyi Jia, an assistant professor, is receiving the Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award from SAE International. At least nine Clemson faculty members have won the honor, adding to South Carolina’s international reputation for excellence in automotive engineering.
Jia is winning the award as self-driving cars start to make their way onto public roads and robots advance what experts call intelligent manufacturing. Both developments are increasing the demand for engineers.
Jia, who joined Clemson in 2016, has been instrumental in expanding the University’s education and research in robotics and self-driving cars, often inspired by urgent real-world needs and in collaboration with industries.
He is based at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville. Jia has led several projects that have inspired a wide range of students and gained widespread attention.
“I am so honored to be recognized by my peers with the Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award,” Jia said. “Preparing the next generation of engineers to advance manufacturing and transportation is always a priority and big passion for me. I thank those who nominated me and thank SAE for awarding me this prestigious honor. I will build on this honor to continue to advance my teaching, research and outreach in robotics manufacturing and vehicle automation.”
The Teetor Award recognizes and honors young educators who prepare individuals to meet the challenges that face society. It comes from SAE International, a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries.
Zoran Filipi, chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering, said Jia is very worthy of high recognition.
“Dr. Jia has emerged as a very effective teacher, who has contributed significantly to our curriculum in vehicle electronics, vehicle autonomy and robotics manufacturing,” Filipi said. “He continues to innovate. As an example, you can feel excitement in the air when his class gathers for an annual competition of student-designed autonomous model cars on an obstacle course.
“Yunyi’s education, research and outreach activities create outstanding opportunities for graduate students, undergraduate students, K-12 students and professional engineers from Upstate Companies who are continuing their education.”
Jia teaches popular and highly-attended courses in autonomous vehicle technologies and vehicle electronics. Many of his students have gone on to jobs with original equipment manufacturers and Tier-1 suppliers.
Jia has also created lab projects in small-scale autonomous vehicles, advanced autonomous driving vehicles, small-scale autonomous boats, and advanced sensing signal processing and fusion.
His projects also include: a smart companion robot for assembly; an autonomous robotic vacuum cleaning system for body shop manufacturing; an occupant sensing system for autonomous vehicles’ and an annual autonomous-boat camp for K-12 students.
Jia directs the Collaborative Robotics and Automation Lab, where he has mentored Ph.D., master’s, undergraduate and high-school students and postdoctoral researchers. They conduct research in collaborative robotics, autonomous vehicles and advanced sensing systems.
Further, Jia has provided important support for Deep Orange, a program that tasks automotive engineering students with designing and building prototype vehicles. Jia serves as the faculty advisor for Deep Orange’s vehicle autonomy team. Jia’s has received a National Science Foundation CAREER award that funds research into human-robot/vehicle interactions. He has also received funding from the Department of Energy for a project in connected and automated vehicles for energy savings. Some of his funding has also come from industry.
At least nine current or former Clemson faculty members have won the Teetor award. Past winners include: Simona Onori, 2018; Srikanth Pilla and Robert Prucka, both 2017; Fadi Abu-Farha, 2016; Beshah Ayalew, 2014; Laine Mears, 2011; Joshua David Summers, 2009; and John R. Wagner, 2002.