Michelin Junior Challenge Design Launches in Beaufort County


The next great idea in mobility could come from anywhere. That’s why tire manufacturer Michelin has joined forces with the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance to offer a unique opportunity to students in Beaufort County.

The Michelin Challenge Design is a competition that invites designers from around the world to share their ideas about the future of mobility. The program started 18 years ago and since 2001 has included entries from college students in 126 countries.

“We realized the global voice of design was coming from a small, classically trained group,” said Ben Ebel, chairman of Michelin’s global Challenge Design program. “But we believe design is more of crowd source than what was historically followed.”

Now, for the first time, Michelin is expanding its design competition to include high school students, and will launch the expanded program in Beaufort County to coincide with the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance, to be held this year from Oct. 27 to Nov. 5.

Concours, with its Driving Young America charity program, hopes to get kids excited about the automotive industry. That program made it the perfect partner to introduce Michelin’s Junior Challenge Design competition.

“I’m thrilled Michelin has chosen our event as a pilot for this,” said Carolyn Vanagel, president of the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance. “We’ll be the model that they could potentially roll out in other places.”

This year’s competition theme is “Le Mans 2030: Design for the Win,” and students were challenged to create a racecar that could win the world’s greatest endurance race in 2030. Participants submitted illustrations of their racecars and a one-page explanation of the design’s powertrain and key innovations.

“We’re not looking for the next great design,” Ebel said. “We’re looking for the next great question.” Finding that question, Ebel said, could help Michelin and other automakers meet the challenges they’ll face when addressing the future of mobility.

Past themes at the Michelin Challenge Design have included “Drive Your Passion,” in which entrants designed vehicles that elicited pure driving pleasure on an iconic road; and “Mobility for All,” which focused on creating a simple, affordable, functional design for a personal, family, or commercial vehicle in an underserved community.

“Entrants over the years have provided a great picture of what questions we’ll be facing,” said Ebel.

When Michelin brought its idea for the competition to the Lowcountry, company officials spoke to representatives from the school district, high school principals, and community leaders to reach as many kids as possible and get all of Beaufort County involved. The program is both an art and a science challenge. Michelin was founded by two brothers—Andre, an engineer, and Edouard, an artist—and the company continues to operate under the belief that mobility design lives in the combination of those two fields.

“I thought it sounded like an interesting opportunity to expose kids to connections and opportunities,” said Brian Ryman, assistant principal of Bluffton High School, who reached out to staff in the science department to help mentor students as they create their entries. Other high schools in the county have art, robotics and automotive programs with mentors, supplies and technology available to students.

“I know what I think of when I look at the challenge,” said Ryman. “But students are different now and I’m curious to see what they come up with.”

The judging panel includes Ralph Gilles, head of design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; Paul Snyder, the head of transportation design at the College for Creative Studies; Ed Welburn, vice president of global design for General Motors; and Frank Campanale, who serves on the board of trustees for CCS.

“All four judges bring different interests and different looks at the work of these students,” Ebel said. “We feel very fortunate to have such heavy hitters involved.”

The winning entrants from each school will win a trip upstate to Michelin headquarters. The winning students will tour the facility, have lunch with the executives, and possibly tour another automobile manufacturing facility in the area, exposing them to the opportunities in manufacturing that exist in South Carolina.

Michelin is a mobility company that designs, manufactures and sells tires for every type of vehicle, from bicycles to airplanes. Headquartered in Greenville, the company employs 9,500 people in the state and more than 22,750 in North America. It operates 20 major manufacturing plants in 16 locations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

“Students start choosing their path in the eighth grade, and STEM is not always the first choice,” said Brian Remsberg, director of consumer public relations for Michelin. “Design education is important to Michelin because it exposes students to possible futures in manufacturing that they may not have considered.”

Each student who submitted an entry will receive two free tickets to the Concours d’Elegance, to be held Nov. 5. In addition to the trip to Michelin, the winning student from each participating high school will receive a $500 scholarship, or $250 per team member. The top drawings will be displayed at the Concours d’Elegance and at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina following the car show. The grand prize winning entrant’s high school will also receive a $1,000 grant. But the most exciting part of the competition is the potential for new ideas.

“High school kids today were brought up in the computer age. Because they aren’t chained down to any old thinking, they can really be creative,” said Lee Niner, vice chairman of Driving Young America. “The industry is about innovation; this is where it starts.”