A Magna Engineer’s Aerodynamic Career
Unlike many high-school students who spend their summer jobs behind the counter at McDonald’s or lifeguarding at the local pool, Kathy Cosmo put her industrial drawings in a portfolio and applied for a drafting position at the Chrysler Defense plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
The then-17-year-old, whose sketches included a meticulous cutaway view of a Jaguar engine, nailed down a job working on the M1 Abrams tank, where she helped to create the mirrors and lenses on the sights for the gunner and driver. Some of her pencil-and-paper drawings had won awards from the Michigan Industrial Education Society, impressing the military men at the facility.
Today, Cosmo works as a senior product development engineer on the active aerodynamics team at Magna, where she has something else in her professional sights: coming up with innovative ways to move air around a vehicle to provide emissions and fuel-economy improvements.
The awards keep coming, too. Cosmo and her Magna team, a diverse group from engineering, design, computer-aided engineering and manufacturing working in collaboration with Ford, recently won a Society of Plastics Engineers innovation prize for their work on the active grille shutter on the 2018 Ford Expedition SUV.
The innovative louver system functions like household blinds, automatically opening and closing based on various inputs from the vehicle, such as speed, temperature and drive mode. Our active aerodynamics expertise has grown significantly, thanks to creative engineers like Cosmo, with more than 10 million active grille shutter systems on the road.
Cosmo, who earned an engineering degree from Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan, said the inspiration for improving current and future versions of aerodynamic technology often comes from Magna brainstorming sessions.
“Ideas are occasionally pulled from nature,” said Cosmo, who is an avid gardener in her spare time. “However, nature is not often simple, so our focus is eventually directed along the mathematical and mechanical lines.
“What I like about working at Magna is that we work as a complete team with direct interaction between design and engineering, and our manufacturing divisions. This interaction from the beginning to the end of the program is essential to our goal of a perfect launch.”
As she speaks, Cosmo picks up a pencil and piece of paper to illustrate a point about her lifelong love of drafting and engineering. After seven years of working on tanks, including drafting ammunition racks for 120mm shells, she moved to the automotive industry. There, she worked on a wide variety of products from Chrysler minivans to the Chevrolet Volt.
It’s an impressive career, considering that she was denied a seat in a high-school shop class years ago because the teacher refused to admit girls. Undaunted, Cosmo, 57, persevered and now mentors the young female engineers on the Magna team. In her spare time, she takes welding classes at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies.
“I love my job because I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of smart people,” Cosmo said. “I’m always learning and every day is a new challenge.”