High school girls traded enjoying the sun at the beach for working on cars at Michigan Tech’s Advanced Power Systems Research Center (APS).
The Women in Automotive Engineering (WIAE) Summer Youth Program taught these students about the field, from airbags and suspensions to design and quality measurements, according to WIAE student Danielle Lund.
“We learned everything, like more than I ever could have imagined. I thought I knew stuff about cars and it turns out, I didn’t,” said Lund. “I already knew that my car had some issues, but now I actually know how to fix it.”
On the last day of the program, the girls put their knowledge to the test. They worked in groups to figure out what would make the lab’s Configurable Hybrid Electric Vehicle the fastest, by changing gear sizes and using gas or electric power. Operations Manager of the APS Mobile Lab said programs like this are a step in the right direction for the field.
“The challenge isn’t over yet,” said Operations Manager of Tech’s APS Mobile Lab Chris Morgan. “We’ve been building cars for over 100 years, but we need more diverse minds, right? Predominately, at least in the 40 years prior to today, we’ve seen a lot of growth in women starting in engineering roles. I’m just super encouraged by that and it’s activities like this that get them interested in it at an early age.”
Whether they take what they learned this week and make a career out of it or not, the students, like Alice Kuitula, raced away with a sense of empowerment.
“People are like ‘Oh, women aren’t in engineering,’ but that’s not true. There are many women who are in it and here, you can be introduced to something that maybe you really want to do, but maybe society says you shouldn’t, but it’s kind of like you should do what you want,” said Kuitula.