Heads Up, High Schoolers: Your Electric Jeep Design Could Shape the Future of Off-Roading

Winners earn a mentorship and leg up on their career even before they get to college.

byKristin V. Shaw|
Heads Up, High Schoolers: Your Electric Jeep Design Could Shape the Future of Off-Roading

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Head of Design Ralph Gilles knows what it means to be encouraged and discovered at a young age. When he was in high school, his aunt sent a letter to then-CEO of Chrysler

Lee Iacocca about Gilles' talent for drawing cars. The letter made its way into the hands of design director Neil Walling, who responded with encouraging words: your portfolio does show significant promise. Gilles later got a job with Chrysler and has now been with the group for 29 years.

Nearly a decade ago, Head of Ram Truck and Mopar Design Mark Trostle and the design team launched a contest to give other talented teenagers the chance that Gilles was offered: support and mentorship. This year marks the ninth-annual Drive for Design contest, and the 2021 challenge is to pen an electrified Jeep of the future.


The contest is open to students in grades 10-12 and the first-place winner will receive a Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16, which is a deluxe graphics design tablet that retails for about $3500. More importantly, all three winners get to work with the Stellantis design team to walk through a step-by step-demo of how to turn a sketch into a successful design, and they'll also engage in a one-to-one portfolio review. This summer, the winners will attend the College for Creative Studies (where Gilles and Trostle honed their skills) for a four-week virtual summer camp on scholarship. 

“Since the contest began nine years ago, we’ve been able to connect and help many young artists establish a career path in automotive design,” said Trostle. “In fact, we’ve had previous contestants as summer interns and recently we hired a former winner who is now working in one of the design studios. Regardless of where these students ultimately land, it’s rewarding to our team to be able to make an impact on someone’s career.”

If you’re long out of high school, think back to those days and imagine what it would be like to have those experiences to get you started. If you’re a high school student now who tends to draw sketches of cars in the margins of your notebooks or on your tablets, consider this a nudge to get into gear. This is the American Idol of car designers but without all the extra drama and backstories.

Sketches are due May 14, so check out the Drive for Design site for more details. 

Got a tip? Send the writer a note: kristin.shaw@thedrive.com