Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) is the overall champion of the Perodua Eco Challenge 2017, beating nine other institutes of higher learning with its ‘Techno-Seat’ storage idea. The invention also won first prize in the Parts Development and Product Marketing sub-categories.

The UiTM team took home RM37,000 for their efforts – RM20,000 for the overall win, RM10,000 for topping the Parts Development sub-contest and RM7,000 for the Product Marketing category. Universiti Teknologi Petronas came in second overall, ahead of Politeknik Ungku Omar in third.

A total of 21 institutions were invited to participate in PEC 2017 in November last year, and from there, 10 were chosen. They are serial winners Politeknik Ungku Omar, Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP), Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTEM), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) and Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP).

Those familiar with the Perodua Eco Challenge (PEC) would have noticed that this year’s contest has shifted away from its original direction. Instead of fuel efficiency racing or building a car, PEC 2017 is about creating a prototype component or accessory. Students were required to produce a car part that fulfils the element of ECO – Environment, Creativity and Originality. The ideas must also incorporate a “Unique Malaysia” element in the design.

Since the start of the year, the 10 institutions have been working closely with Perodua’s R&D team, mentors and vendors. Mentors from P2 coached the students and exposed them to real-world industry practices such as project planning, scheduling, mass production costing, market trends, important design factors and more.

The ten teams were evaluated based on the depth of their initial project proposal, overall project progress, their final presentation and of course, their working prototype part. A sketch design competition held in January also contributed to the final score. The judging panel was led by Perodua executive chief engineer Albert Ngu.

UiTM’s ‘Techno-Seat’ features a hidden storage compartment built into the back of the front passenger seat, with a hinged latch. The hidden compartment features LED illumination upon opening, a USB charging port and a storage pocket. It can swallow a paperback plus two small mineral water bottles and other small items, and fits flush with the seat back when closed.

The team tested the component on bumpy roads and claims that their prototype survived without spilling open. The in-seat organiser idea came about after the team observed student cars with stuff scattered all around the cabin.

Perodua has been coming up with some unique to Malaysia features in its cars of late. The Axia answered smash and grab security issues with an anti-snatch bag hook between the front seats, while the just-launched Myvi features an in-seat USB charger with pouch, memory settings for the air con and an integrated Touch n Go reader. This neat in-seat storage idea might just be the next localised feature.

“This is indeed a testament to the ingenuity of the local students, as they have managed with a budget of under RM15,000, to produce something quite interesting in terms of function and design,” said Perodua president and CEO Datuk Aminar Rashid Salleh, who added that the design will be considered for study with a local vendor to be included in Perodua’s future models.

“We hope to see this design implemented either in our current model line-up through running changes or new models in the years to come,” he said.

There were many other interesting creations from the student teams, including a rival in-seat storage idea (seat base flips up to reveal compartment), a solar windshield shade, adaptive high beam, vehicle cooling systems and a phone holder with wireless charging. Flip through the pictures we took from the PEC 2017 “roadshow” cum final presentation and awards presentation yesterday to be fascinated.