Guest Blog: Combining Forces

group of young woman next to a car with the hood up
group of young woman next to a car with the hood up
Students in the Women in Automotive Engineering program investigate engineering careers in the automotive industry, including mechanical and electrical aspects. Credit: Peter Zhu

Summer Youth Programs (SYP) hosted its first writing camp in June. Student writer Grace Sviland teamed up with fellow SYP campers for a confidence boost.

The members of Calling All Writers (SYP for aspiring writers) and Women in Automotive Engineering (SYP for aspiring automotive engineers) combined forces to create a story about the amazing women in the automotive engineering field. My fellow writers and I spent two days with the Women in Automotive Engineering students to learn about their daily routine and their real-life stories.

I interviewed students Ainsley, Madison and Sydney and teaching assistant Zora from the Women in Automotive Engineering Program to find out who they were, but while interviewing them, they helped me find out who I was. Confidence is something that these women do not lack. They know who they are and what they want to do.

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While interviewing these young women, they weren’t afraid to speak out. It was refreshing to talk and connect with them. One said that they wanted to work for NASA as an aerospace engineer. They are looking toward the future and dreaming big. This made me realize that I wasn’t dreaming big enough — and confidence is a big boost to big dreams.

Confidence didn’t come easy to this group, though. Discouraging authority figures have been in their lives for many years. When Ainsley was in first grade, she said her teacher told her she couldn’t like math because she’s a girl. She decided to prove him wrong in every aspect; she’s an aspiring engineer and no one can stop her.

Encouraging figures have also been placed in their lives as well. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing a representative from the sponsor for this year’s Women in Automotive Engineering Program. This inspiring woman’s name is Brenda Moyer, a senior manager for Dana Incorporated, and she is an alumna of Michigan Technological University.

As a mechanical engineer she has had many different jobs and worked on many wonderful projects. When I asked her why Dana Inc. decided to sponsor this program, she said, “Dana is a company that’s really focused on innovation. We’re building innovative products… and in order to support that we need engineers…. The Michigan Tech programs are really hands on and when you have hands-on experience, I think it makes you a better engineer.”

group of young women standing under a vehicle lifted on a hydraulic lift
The crew at the Advanced Power Systems Lab (APS LABS) give a tour to students in the Women in Automotive Engineering Program, a competitive summer program sponsored by Dana Inc. Photo Credit: Peter Zhu 

I then asked Moyer about how she is able to help women who aren’t confident to try a profession like automotive engineering. She described a mentoring program that she helped start at Dana Inc. to help young people. According to her, “Whether they want to get to know different people in the company, or if they want to work on personal issues, there is always someone who will listen."

After talking with all these empowering women, I took a look at myself and wondered what I could do as a writer to build confidence. So that’s what I’m doing with this assignment: Sharing stories to show people what it's like to be daring and passionate in their careers.

For this assignment, I really stepped out of my comfort zone. I know now that there are so many more opportunities for me and that finding a field of work that I enjoy is more possible than ever. I’ve only just scratched the surface of careers available to me and I’m ready to surround myself with intelligent, goal-oriented, hard-working people who will help me become the best version of myself. I encourage every woman who is interested to join a Michigan Tech Youth Program. Even if you don’t know who or what you want to be, you’ll never know if you never try.

The Women in Automotive Engineering helped me realize something important. They gave me the idea that people don't really find themselves, they create themselves, and my masterpiece has only just begun.

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.