Engineering Education Scholarships Expand to Answer Demand

two young girls working on green pine-tree shaped circuit boards, wearing safety glasses, with the girl in the foreground using a soldering iron.
two young girls working on green pine-tree shaped circuit boards, wearing safety glasses, with the girl in the foreground using a soldering iron.
Summer Youth Programs explorers build circuit boards that light up like a Christmas tree. (Michigan Tech Center for Educational Outreach)

The traditional season of giving — both thanks and gifts — is upon us. What better time to look back on a summer scholarship surprise that opened doors for 40 young women interested in engineering careers?

For more than 40 years, Michigan Tech Summer Youth Programs (SYP) has been offering
experiences that stretch the boundaries of more traditional camps and put STEM education into action through team projects, on-campus activities and field trips. One of the most popular programs is Junior Women in Engineering (JWIE). JWIE is one of several highly competitive scholarship-funded programs that covers tuition, room and board. In 2018, 60 middle-school students applied to JWIE, which historically accepts 20 students.

When ITC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jon Jipping heard about the overwhelming interest and demand in the program, he proposed a solution: ITC Holdings Corp., an electricity transmission company based in Novi, Michigan, volunteered to cover the $40,000 cost for the remaining 40 young women to attend JWIE and other SYP engineering programs (there are several experiences to choose from).

"Mr. Jipping didn't want the first message these girls received in pursuing engineering to be a 'no,'" said Amanda Jackson, assistant director at Michigan Tech's Center for Educational Outreach, which operates the SYP explorations and other college access programs that bring science, technology, engineering and math to K-12 students around the country and the world.

"ITC has long recognized the need for more young women to enter the engineering profession. It's programs like this that quench the thirst for knowledge and help place students on the path to academic — and professional — success."Jon Jipping, ITC Holdings
A group of young women with the front row kneeling and smiling in summer clothing inside a building on a college campus.
Ashley Simpson has been a part of Summer Youth Programs in three roles now: camper, counselor and mentor. (Michigan Tech Center for Educational Outreach)

The company also sent an ambassador — 2009 Michigan Tech graduate Ashley Simpson, a human performance specialist with ITC, returned to Houghton to chat with SYP campers and share what it's like to work for the largest independent electricity transmission company in the country.

"As an alum of Summer Youth Programs, I know what a difference it can make in the lives of young women," said Simpson, who attended SYP as a high school students and returned as a counselor during her studies at Michigan Tech. "My hope is that programs like this continue to provide opportunities for young women to grow and succeed while at school, as well as after graduation."Ashley Simpson, '09

Young Women in Engineering Write Thank You Notes

Gratitude and giving go hand-in-hand. The 2018 scholarship recipients expressed their appreciation in letters that SYP forwarded to the company:

"I always thought college was a place for strict learning — and it is, but not the way I thought," wrote Brigid R., from Kalamazoo, Michigan. "This is a place not only for educational growth, but growth as people, too, where adults and children can learn, discover and understand new things together, and that is remarkable."

"It was exciting to experience all the different types of engineering. My favorite type of engineering was electrical engineering. We had the chance to build a circuit board that lit up like a Christmas tree!" wrote Silvia D. from Birmingham, Michigan.

"Before this camp I didn't realize how many different types of jobs engineers can do! I really want to help the environment and make a difference in the world, but I wasn't really sure how to do that. Then I learned about what environmental engineers do and it gave me the right direction," wrote Ava Y., of Marquette, Michigan.

Two young girls with braids smiling at a summer camp in an interior location with a white wall.
Learning what both university students and engineers do helps young people formulate their own plans for the future. (Michigan Tech Center for Educational Outreach)
"I would have never found biomedical engineering if it wasn't for JWIE. I look forward to spending more time researching the different applications of biomedical engineering and the fields surrounding it. I'm very thankful I was able to attend and I only wish I could have stayed longer." Adah P., Fairfax, Virginia

"I spent the week exploring different types of engineering and participating in experiments to give us a sense of what those engineers did. I absolutely loved learning about the different fields of mechanical engineering and getting to design and test simple prosthetic legs. This program really helped open my eyes to how many options I have for careers," wrote Samantha K., from Luxemburg, Wisconsin

More Opportunities for More Young Women

ITC has committed to being the 2019 JWIE program sponsor as well, Jipping said. "Michigan Tech's Junior Women in Engineering program is an exciting, educational way for academically talented young women to explore a variety of engineering disciplines."

Cody Kangas, director for Michigan Tech's Center for Educational Outreach, also expresses gratitude for the generosity of Jipping and ITC for partnering to provide a platform for young women to become immersed in engineering education.

"Delivering profound opportunities for youth to explore and discover with enthusiasm is at the core of Michigan Tech's Summer Youth Programs," Kangas said. "Together with strategic industry partners, we spark affinity for STEM, catalyzing authentic experiences for students during their formative years."

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.