When Jennifer Shute and Jody Hand took on leadership roles in Michigan Technological University’s inaugural Women in Automotive Engineering (WIAE) in July, one of their goals was to provide young women with something they don’t want. didn’t have when they were students at Michigan Technological University. models in the automotive industry.
Women in Automotive Engineering, sponsored by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), was organized by the Tech’s Center for Pre-college Outreach as part of the Summer Youth Program (SYP). Both women work for FCA, Shute is responsible for product investigations in the area of vehicle safety and regulatory compliance and Hand works as a master black belt instructor in reactive problem solving.
Although they were involved in every aspect of the week-long program, perhaps their most important role was to show the high school girls that a career in the male-dominated automotive industry is indeed possible.
“Part of the reason we’re doing this is the fact that we didn’t have (female) role models, not only at their age, but also in college,” Hand said.
“It’s been fantastic,” Shute said. “It’s great to see these 24 exceptional young women taking an interest in this exciting profession.”
“We think it’s important that they know they have options,” Hand added.
Hand said FCC was thrilled to be WIAE’s sole first-year sponsor. She said the idea was started by another Michigan Tech alum, Stephen L. Williams ’86, FCA’s executive liaison with Michigan Tech.
Women have a place in automotive engineering
Williams said: “Despite women buying 60% of all vehicles and influencing nearly 85% of all car buying decisions, female enrollment in bachelor of engineering programs remains stubbornly low at around 18 %.”
He said that by sponsoring the FCA Women in Automotive Engineering summer youth program at Michigan Tech, “we are making a direct investment that will hopefully encourage promising young women to consider engineering as a field of study and a career in the automotive industry”.
Cody Kangas, director of Tech’s Center for Educational Outreach, praised Williams’ vision and FCA’s commitment. “We were absolutely thrilled to partner with FCA this year and collaborate to deliver this inaugural program,” he said.
Kangas said in collaboration with the Mechanical Engineering-Mechanical Engineering Department of Tech and the Advanced Power Systems Research Center and Mobile Laboratory, “a very intentional and innovative program has been developed to show how the field automotive engineering can be exciting. The week went very well and we are looking forward to planning 2017.”
The hand accepted. “We certainly hope the program will continue,” she said.
If WIAE’s goal was to inspire young women, it certainly hit the mark with Serena Evans-Lutterodt of Bridgewater, New Jersey.
View of a young woman
“I love it here,” she said. “It’s so exciting to know exactly what I want to do.”
Soon to enter her final year at Mount Saint Mary Academy in Watchung, New Jersey, Evans-Lutterodt said she had always loved cars and motors and jumped into the scholarship program at Michigan Tech.
She said she’s never been able to learn about the auto industry from women who are actually in it. “It’s so exciting,” she said. “It helps to talk to role models and mentors in the automotive industry. It’s really my only opportunity to see the industry up close. I’ve told all my friends about it.
Evans-Lutterodt has yet to decide where she’ll go to college next year, and despite the fact that she “doesn’t like to shovel snow,” Michigan Tech is on her list. The University, WIAE and APSRC facilities made a strong impression.
Which, according to William Predebon, president of the ME-EM department, was one of the objectives.
Automotive technology for the future
“These students spent the week learning about modern technology in today’s automobiles at Michigan Tech Mobile Laboratory, which is a state-of-the-art engineering teaching lab with the sophisticated technology used in the automotive industry. today,” he said.
Predebon expressed his gratitude to the FCA for taking the initiative to sponsor the WIAE program. “It’s a great opportunity for young female students to learn about exciting innovations in the automotive industry,” he said.
Kangas said Michigan Tech’s program is unique. “At this point, we know that there are very few, if any, programs similar to WIAE in the United States. This alone shows the importance of not only continuing to offer it, but of improving and expanding the experience to entice more potential students to consider the field and its incredible careers.
Kangas said the next generation of automotive engineers are currently in middle school and high school. “So the sooner we can expose them and familiarize them with the challenges and opportunities, the better.”
Everyone who contributed to the success of WIAE’s first year hopes that the program will continue to be there for these students – the young women who will benefit and grow to be the role models and mentors that today’s female engineers , like Shute and Hand, never had.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and enrolls more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the top universities in the nation for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate programs in science and technology, engineering, computer science, forestry, business and economics, health professions, science humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is located a few miles from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, providing year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.