Delphi Foundation Goes the Extra Mile

Annual support from the corporate sponsor fosters real-world experiences, diversity in the profession.

Delphi Foundation’s Lindsey Williams is proud to say that Delphi and the College of Engineering have a partnership that works.

Himself a Purdue alumnus (BS Management ’85), Williams serves as vice president, government relations, Delphi Automotive, and director, Delphi Foundation Inc., in Troy, Michigan.

Williams explains that since Delphi Foundation’s inception in 1999 (and before that for multiple years as part of the GM Foundation), he and his office have awarded annual grants to the Purdue College of Engineering. The College splits the funding among three programs — the Women in Engineering Program (WIEP), the Minority Engineering Program (MEP), and the First-Year Engineering (FYE) Program.

First-Year Experiences, Real-World Exposures

Lindsey Williams (first row, third from right) pictured with members of Delphi’s Purdue Recruiting Team.

The Foundation’s grants are instrumental in authenticating classroom technology and materials, exposing students to projects on which Delphi’s own engineers are working.

Delphi recently demonstrated the first and only automated vehicle to complete a coast-to-coast drive across the U.S. After the journey, the company provided a subset of the data collected during the trip for Purdue engineering first-year students to evaluate. “The vehicle, equipped with multiple Delphi technologies, drove itself 99 percent of the time without human intervention,” Williams says. “What better way to introduce engineering students to real-world applications?”

FYE students also will have the opportunity to test Delphi’s Driver Camera System (DCS), which monitors the driver’s head position and eye closure states. “DCS sensor data is used to estimate the awareness and alertness of the driver,” Williams says.

Mary Pilotte, associate professor of engineering practice in the School of Engineering Education and past director of the FYE Program, has seen Delphi’s contributions come alive with its data-sharing initiative.

“Delphi has helped bring real-life engineering problems to the FYE classroom by giving us insights into the wide range of high-tech engineering products and systems that are under development today,” Pilotte says. “The data sets have helped us discover how engineers use MATLAB (a modeling, simulation and programming tool) to solve nagging safety issues that have persisted in the automotive sector since the very creation of the automobile.”

Students building a go-kart that they’ll test on the Purdue Grand Prix track.

Pilotte praises Delphi’s sharing of complex data for the company’s RSDS (Rear and Side Detection System) safety technology, saying, “Using this data, students were challenged to come up with a way (using MATLAB) to test this data set while also explaining the system to novice engineers.”

“Automobile safety through engineering research is a vital part of the Delphi-Purdue collaboration,” Pilotte says. Delphi makes engineering exciting by providing a wide variety of relevant engineering experiences. “Safety and the idea of helping people is appealing to millennials.”

FYE students emerge from their inaugural year with training equivalent to an on-the-job experience. They work with multidisciplinary and multicultural teams, teaching them to operate effectively in an environment that is the workplace norm. Also, students use tools that are current in industry. Williams says, “Knowledge of these tools translates into an excellent start on the steep Delphi learning curve.” By exposing students to the Delphi experience, the company increases the likelihood that its future employees will be able to address industry challenges faster and more effectively.

Adding Women to the Engineering Workforce

The Women in Engineering Program uses Delphi funding for scholarships and recruiting. “Scholarships are a longtime staple of the Delphi annual gift,” says Beth Holloway (BSME ’92, MSME ’97, PhD ’13), assistant dean of engineering for undergraduate education and director of the Women in Engineering Program. Scholarships help the University achieve its affordability goal, and they help the College meet its goal of increasing the number of women studying engineering. Williams is pleased with the progress. “Purdue recently set another record in enrolling the largest number ever of women undergraduate engineering students: 2,030 women, or 25 percent of all undergraduates,” he says.

We view our support of this initiative as an important step in growing the number of female engineers in the workplace.

Vice President, Government Relations, Delphi Automotive, and Director, Delphi Foundation Inc.

The funds from Delphi also enable important recruiting efforts, Holloway says. “Our one-day visit programs showcase Purdue’s Engineering program and allow prospective students to interact with current students, faculty, staff and alumnae.”

One program, Seniors Exploring Engineering at Purdue (SEE Purdue), is an on-campus summer opportunity that allows young women and their parents to interact with corporate engineering representatives and engineering alumnae.

“We view our support of this initiative as an important step in growing the number of female engineers in the workplace,” Williams says.

Fostering Diversity

Growing the number of underrepresented students also is a goal of the Minority Engineering Program. Virginia Booth Womack (BSIE ’91, BA Psychology ’92) is not only the director of the program, she also used MEP tutoring and study sessions when she was a Purdue student.

“Being a Purdue engineer changed my life and opened up a world of opportunities,” she says. Having logged many years in the private sector, she is a seasoned expert in her field and a valuable resource for students. She says MEP uses the Delphi Foundation funding to support its Summer Engineering Workshops, whose goal is to increase the number of minority students studying engineering.

Drawing more than 200 students from around the country, from middle school through the 11th grade, these workshops expose students to core STEM disciplines, a key goal of the Purdue Moves strategy. “We provide students with academic enrichment, authentic engineering design experiences, professional development and mentoring,” Womack says. “The design experiences, in particular, are exciting. Students work on projects such as 3-D printing, programming autonomous robots for Lego competitions and building a racing go-kart. For the go-kart, they use the Arduino open-source electronics platform to construct speedometers to track their speed on the Purdue Grand Prix track.”

As a company employing over 170,000 people in 44 countries, we value diversity in our ranks very highly.

Vice President, Government Relations, Delphi Automotive, and Director, Delphi Foundation Inc.

Delphi Foundation’s Williams confirms: “As a company employing more than 170,000 people in 44 countries, we value diversity in our ranks very highly." Helping fund the MEP summer workshops promotes that. “The workshops allow pre-college students to experience engineering and interact with successful minority engineering alums," he says.

Williams is confident that Delphi benefits from the annual grants awarded to these three programs as much as the College itself. “Over the past several years, we’ve been fortunate to recruit many highly qualified interns, co-ops and graduates from the College of Engineering," he says. “Delphi offers more than a job. We offer a foundation for a meaningful career and an opportunity to make the world safer, greener and more connected."

To support initiatives in First-Year Engineering or the School of Engineering Education, contact Rebecca Fry, director of development, at 765-494-0023Call 765-494-0023 or

To support the Women in Engineering Program or the Minority Engineering Program, contact Hilary Butler, director of development, at 765-494-6383Call 765-494-6383 or