Hehei, Anhui Province, China
"Our team trekked out to some truly remote rural elementary schools. We demonstrated how to design robotic carts and model airplanes to make children love innovation and technology while playing. They were very eager to learn, to ask questions, to practice with their own hands.
"We taught them some basic science and technology; controlling the rotational direction of four motors by connecting wires to the circuit boards to receive signals. I remember one student in Jinzhai primary school told me the reason his grades were so poor is that he was bored in school. But after our visit, he said he wants to make robots in the future."
At 21, Gudong Hu holds an international patent for Vehicle Wading Alert, which helps cars and trucks avoid roads with rapidly rising water. He and his team at the Anhui University of Science and Technology designed the core technology, Robotic Sight: An Extra Eye for Safer Mobility, for their Ford UCAN project.
Robotic Sight with Vehicle Wading Alert detects floods and measures road parameters and driving conditions—such as road slope, distance to water and vehicle speed—to determine whether the vehicle can safely pass through the water.
"Currently, the major drainage systems are not adequate to cope with sudden heavy rains in many cities in China," Hu said. "Urban waterlogging becomes a serious issue for drivers who misjudge the depth of the water and how fast the water is rising on the road. It is common for drivers to get stuck in deep water on a road with no help."
Hu and his fellow students are expanding their work into other areas and have applied for Chinese patents on the following technology: early warning of obstacles on the road, collision avoidance (including rear-end warning) and blind area detection.
For his part, Hu continues to think about the impact his team made on the rural children. In China, he explained, millions of parents leave their children with grandparents in the countryside to seek employment in large cities.
"They are called the ‘left-behind children," Hu said. "Our project has made contact with and supported more than 200 left-behind children aged 8 to 13 in Jinzhai, Suzhou and Huainan of Anhui Province."
He said he will always remember these children: "I plan to pay a return visit to discuss a cooperative effort between the school and our STEAM classes, when COVID-19 allows. I want to use my professional knowledge in technology to create more social value. And with the children, we are planting the seeds of innovation in their hearts. They can experience the fun of team-working and the joy of seeing how big the outside world is."
Through Ford UCAN, Hu and his team were brought to the United States to visit Silicon Valley, meet with potential investors and shadow Ford Smart Mobility engineers. In China, they were given opportunities for in-person and online training.
The Ford UCAN Youth Innovation Program inspires students to use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) skills to solve mobility and transportation challenges. UCAN provides training, mentoring and resources for young entrepreneurs, while cultivating a passion for making the world a better place.