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Professor honored for work educating next generation of automotive engineers

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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. According to a university news release, at least nine Clemson faculty members have won the honor, building South Carolina’s international reputation for in automotive engineering.

Jia is winning the award as self-driving cars start to make their way onto public roads across the country, increasing demand for engineers who can create and support autonomous driving technology.

Jia, who joined Clemson in 2016, has been instrumental in expanding the University’s education and research in robotics and self-driving cars, often in collaboration with industry, according to the news release. He is based at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville.

Jia has led several projects that have gained widespread attention, including a robotic shopping companion, an autonomous boat camp for K-12 students, and an autonomous robotic vacuum cleaning system designed for body shop manufacturing.

“I am honored to be recognized by my peers with the Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award,” Jia said in the release. “Preparing the next generation of engineers for the challenges of the 21st century is a priority and passion for me. I thank those who nominated me, and I thank SAE for helping make this honor possible.”

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, chairman of Clemson’s automotive engineering department, said Jia has earned the 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 in the release. “He is an excellent mentor to our students. His education, research and outreach activities create outstanding opportunities for graduate students, undergraduate students, K-12 students and professional engineers who are continuing their education.” 

Jia teaches popular courses in autonomous vehicle technologies and vehicle electronics integration. Many of his students have gone on to jobs with original equipment manufacturers and Tier-1 suppliers, the release said.

Jia has also created lab projects in small-scale autonomous vehicles, advanced autonomous driving vehicles, small-scale autonomous boats, and automotive sensing signal processing and fusion.

Jia serves as the faculty advisor for Deep Orange’s vehicle autonomy team. Deep Orange is a program that tasks automotive engineering students with designing and building prototype vehicles.

Jia has received $4.7 million in federal and industrial funding for research, and he has published more than 90 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers, according to the release.

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