From Legos to autos: New CU-ICAR endowed chair has built an impressive career
GREENVILLE — When Chris Paredis was a 9-year-old playing with Legos in his bedroom in Belgium he wasn’t thinking about becoming an engineer. “I just loved building things,” he said. “Even when my parents would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say I was going to be an inventor.”
That love for creating led him to construct a fully functional Lego gearbox that could power anything you hooked up to it. “My parents couldn’t believe it. I have to admit, I was pretty proud of that myself,” he said.
Legos led to bikes and then cars and, as he explained, “literally anything with moving parts.”
Today, that fascination with making things work — and not just the way they’re supposed to, but oftentimes better — has led to the position he finds himself in today as the new BMW Endowed Chair in Systems Integration for Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR).
“We’re very excited to have somebody with Chris’s experience and reputation join the automotive engineering department here at CU-ICAR,” said Nick Rigas, executive director of CU-ICAR. “Not only will his research benefit our mission here, but his ability to teach and inspire students will help educate the workforce of the future for industry.”
“Dr. Paredis has an impeccable track record in the field of system engineering and design of complex systems, not to mention being a national leader in systems integration, all of which are huge assets to us at CU-ICAR,” said Anand Gramopadhye, dean of Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. “He’s an excellent fit for Clemson and deserving of this new role. His presence will not only benefit our students but local industry and the broader transportation community at large.”
Paredis comes to Clemson from Georgia Tech, where he was a professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering as well as director of the Model-Based Systems Engineering Center. Prior to that he worked with the National Science Foundation (NSF), where he served as the program director for Engineering and Systems Design (ESD), Systems Science (SYS) and Design of Engineering Material Systems (DEMS).
At CU-ICAR, Paredis will work to establish an internationally recognized research and education program around the design and realization of complex systems, with the automobile as the demonstration platform.
“What that really means,” Paredis explained, “is we’re trying to figure out the right combination of systems that work best together to add value to the user experience; in this case, acceleration, fuel efficiency, safety, comfort, etc. With all the amazing things cars can do today I still think the sky’s the limit in terms of how much more we can expect out of our cars.”
Paredis will also head up and provide intellectual input to CU-ICAR’s Deep Orange vehicle development education program.
“The fantastic aspect of Deep Orange is that it provides the students with a comprehensive, immersive learning experience in vehicle development within a span of just two years,” Paredis said. “It’s almost impossible to do something like this in the real world, but with Deep Orange we can.”
Paredis’ path to the U.S. began when he was awarded the prestigious fellowship of the Belgian American Educational Foundation. With that he was able to attend and graduate from Carnegie Mellon University, where he served as research faculty for six years after graduation.
Paredis is greatly respected in the engineering research community, having served as a speaker at the National Academy of Engineering’s German-American Frontiers of Engineering Symposium as well as receiving the Distinguished Visiting Fellowship award from the British Royal Academy of Engineering and the ASME Computers and Information in Engineering Service Award in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
“Chris has fully embraced our vision for the chair in Automotive System Integration and is ready to take the activity in that area to the new heights,” said Zoran Filipi, chair of the automotive engineering department and executive director of the Carroll A. Campbell Graduate Engineering Center at CU-ICAR. “I am delighted and excited about his future with us, both as a researcher and the leader of our Deep Orange vehicle prototyping program.”
“We’re at a crucial moment in time in automotive development,” Paredis said. “There are enormous opportunities to help the industry transition to the new future of autonomy. We can no longer look at it as a purely technical problem but need to consider it in a social context. To be taking this on with the backing of Clemson is really exciting.”