Middle School Students Learn STEAM Lessons from GM Women Leaders

Hands-on sessions give students a glimpse into automotive careers.

Beauty in Motion, a Buick-sponsored STEAM-focused session on what goes into producing a beautiful car and what it takes to become the person who helps create it, May 27, 2017 / LAURA EVANS/BUICK

On May 27, 50 middle school girls and boys took part in Beauty in Motion, hosted by General Motors (No. 42 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) executive-level women representing different professions, including: Manufacturing, Design, Corporate Giving, Human Resources and Communications. The four-hour program provided students a glimpse into STE(A)M-related careers, and how those professions and skills translate into the work of companies like GM.

"We named the program Beauty in Motion to encourage students' curiosity for STEM careers and unravel the magic in their potential," said Jackie Parker, Director, Global Philanthropy and Corporate Giving and President, GM Foundation.

The program kicked off with a session hosted by Dr. Tonya Matthews, CEO of the Michigan Science Center and partner of GM's Corporate Giving. She spoke about reason and resilience – the 'why' inspiring students to enter career fields and the motivators that keep them pushing towards success through obstacles.

"There is power in seeing someone who looks like you succeed in your dream career," said Asia Jones, a 12-year-old seventh grader from Jacksonville, Florida. "By the time I walked out of the room, I was full of knowledge. I was intrigued by the fact that women surrounded me, doing the job just as well as a man. A long time ago, a man said that women would NEVER be able to do what men could."

Not only did the program provide students a boost of confidence to strive for careers in STE(A)M, it also taught them tangible skills critical to the core of any global manufacturing company.

In a break-out session led by Tammy Golden, GM Plant Manager of Warren Transmission, groups of students competed to build a number of toy vehicles in a short amount of time. The students quickly learned lessons in manufacturing efficiency: organization of materials, assembly lines, waste elimination and team work.

"Walking into this, I knew that building a car was not easy. But, what I didn't know was that it was such as long process," she said. "By the end of the day, I learned that teamwork and organization is the key to everything in life."

In another hands-on activity led by Crystal Windham, Director of Cadillac Interior Design, students took photos of animals as inspiration and produced free-form sketches of vehicles. Students also learned how designers turn 2-D sketches into 3-D models molding clay.

"There were no lectures or 45-page slideshows," said India Callahan, 14, an eighth grader from Jacksonville, Florida. "From the opening when they introduced themselves until the end, I was intrigued with how hands on they were. This program went into depth about STEAM careers, and the women genuinely cared about what we, as teens, had to say."

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