Ford Motor Company is committed to providing young people with the opportunity to explore STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math – in a hands-on way.
On December 10, more than 75 girls from schools around the metro Detroit area, in grades four through eight, came together at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit. The Science Center hosts several programs to give young women hands-on experience with tech fields – one of those being the Ford-sponsored STEMinista project.
The participants were given recycled materials to create an innovation or invention that solves a problem of their choosing – they ranged from transportation to food. One group created a flying car with their recycled materials to solve a transportation issue, while another created a device that delivered a food of their choosing to them, with just the push of a button.
Fifteen Ford role models – women in STEM fields ranging from environmental science, finance, product development, information technology and manufacturing– spent a few minutes with each group of girls, talking to them about their careers, and helping them with their innovations and inventions.
The program aims to show young girls the several different areas where STEM plays a role – medical, technical, and many more. One way to do that, is to surround them with women who are in these fields, and allow them to “pick their brains” – ask questions and explore their day-to-day activities, in order to give them a real-life idea of what a future in STEM looks like.
“It isn’t just about being good at math and science,” said Alison Bazil, business manager for vehicle components and system engineering at Ford. “If you like to be creative and inventive, solve problems and make things better, that’s really what engineering is all about.”
Bazil herself was interested in a career in engineering at a young age, and was hired at Ford when she was 21 years old. She said one of the messages she wants to give young women is that stereotypes about STEM fields aren’t always accurate.
“There is a stereotype that engineers sit in a dark cube and never talk to another soul, they’re just clicking around on a computer,” said Bazil. “It’s so much more creative than that; at times we’re going to get actual parts, we’re playing and being very hands-on in order to be creative.”
That’s not dissimilar to what the groups were instructed to do with their recycled materials – find a way to solve a problem by creating something with what you’re given. That assignment is an honest way to show these young women what a career in STEM can be like.
“It is so important to set an example – engineering is not a new field, but they don’t see a lot of women who do it,” said Bazil. “What’s great about this program is we have all different women from Ford – all ages and backgrounds, to drive the message home.”