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Grow Up Great and Fifth Gear Give Back

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After all the talk on our trip to Detroit about needing more STEM students, I want to knowknow what the Detroit Three are doing to put their money where their mouths are. Its easy to say that we need more students in a certain area but without going out and doing anything about it nothing is going to change. There is a reason that there is a lack of STEM students in America. Detroit schools are struggling to meet the  basic proficiency rates. Teachers are trying to get their students to graduate from high school. They are trying to get their students to just stay in school. Without support, financially, in the classroom,  and at home, expecting teachers alone to create STEM students is a little ridiculous at this point.

2. IMG_0204 (2)The great part of Detroit though, in terms of STEM, is its economic base. The major companies have the ability and the motivation to get out into those schools and help out. The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and PNC are doing just that. Through the Grow Up Great and Fifth Gear programs these companies are working to inspire a love of math, science, technology, and engineering in public school youth by providing a math and science curriculum based on real-world applications in motor vehicles. The Grow Up Great program focuses on the youngest students, reaching 450+ preschoolers in 15 public schools. The Fifth Gear program works with more than 250 fifth grade students from 10 schools.

IMG_0192After spending a few weeks learning and building model cars in their respective classrooms, all of the students will get a chance to come together and top  off their unit at the Grand Prix itself. There, motorsports organizations such as Ilmor Engineering and Pratt & Miller Engineering will work with the students on hands-on activities centered on topics such as friction, gravity, aerodynamics and safety.

It is programs like this that inspire career choices in students. It is great to see such important companies in Detroit giving back to their struggling school system and investing in their own future.



  1. mayolj16

    I agree with you that it is really important to promote interest in the car industry in order to get more STEM students as they mentioned at Ford. This Grow up Great program sounds really interesting and it could be effective since it will encourage kids in their early stages to go into STEM careers, but it would be better if the car manufacturers gave financial aid to those students to go into college, since there might be some cases where they want to go into STEM disciplines but they cannot afford it.

    May 14, 2014
  2. Peter Wittwer
    Peter Wittwer

    I like that they are targeting young students to start them early with an interest in STEM technology, that is vital to keep students on the right path as they advance throughout the Detroit school system. However, I was a little shocked that the Detroit 3 aren’t working with high schoolers at all. Even if it was a program that only worked with maybe 100 of the brightest students at public high schools in Detroit, it could be great motivation to get them to continue on the collegiate path if people from the automobile industry met and worked with them.

    May 14, 2014
    • Louisa Ortiz
      Louisa Ortiz

      I looked into this program a bit more and it does involve a few high schools through their robotics clubs. I remember one of the places we visited talking about this. Apparently a good number of the schools’ robotics clubs are sponsored by tier 2 and OEM companies.

      May 16, 2014
  3. heardd16

    It was interesting visiting Ford World Headquarters after going to the Fed. During our Q&A session with the gentlemen at the Fed, the younger one (I cannot recall his name right now) mentioned how Ford does very little to give back to the Detroit community. I was eager to ask the Human Resources executive at Ford later that day exactly what they do to spur STEM in the Detroit community. It is good to see that Chevrolet is actively investing in education of Detroit’s youths.

    May 14, 2014
  4. Louis Ike
    Louis Ike

    It is very good news to hear that some of these large auto manufacturers are looking domestically to stimulate learning and improve their local economies. However, I remember during the talk with Ford’s human resources personnel that when I asked about how many of the job openings were for college educated people the percentage was quite small. Ford did say a not insignificant portion of the openings were for 4 year or graduate level job seekers in the field of engineering. Nonetheless, one of the key points I picked up was that a lot of these jobs were for high school graduates or those who go to 2 year technical colleges. There is obviously nothing at all wrong with only having a high school diploma or a 2 year degree, but I think it may be in conflict of interest with smart children to point them on a path aimed only at achieving a technical degree. I may have picked up some not entirely accurate information from my listening, but I hope that in the end these companies can foster and environment of learning and achievement in STEM.

    May 14, 2014
  5. reed

    At present companies can employ Foreign nationals with engineering degrees at a a discount because the companies sponsor can use H-1B visas to allow the engineers into the country. I’m sure Ford is looking at the coming shortage as a problem, but for the moment I think your observation that they don’t seem interested in actually employing American graduates is accurate. They would rather save the money until foreign engineers decide that coming to the states is not the best career move.

    May 15, 2014
    • Ford’s response was for non-STEM positions. They don’t hire many generic business or economics or accounting majors as a share of TOTAL hires in the US. But if you do get hired – they do need finance and accounting people, and marketing people!! – it is a neat place to work. And it’s hard to argue those jobs should get H-1B preference, so you aren’t kept out of the running. Mr. Cosgrove’s name carries weight, and of course I can forward a note if and when some of you pursue a Ford job…

      May 19, 2014
  6. Felicia Fields was a keynote speaker at the Society of Automotive Engineers to push them to do the same. The Detroit Three are too small (and have almost no footprint in Detroit) to have a national impact. Collectively the entire industry can do more. However firms will start in their local communities, which again does not mean Detroit. But for machine repair or welding or … these are pretty involved skills nowadays, unfortunately the focus on white collar jobs in our education system works against this area too. And for some of those you’d really like people with a college degree, but just try to find a college that provides such skills! – instead grads have to go to a tech program after finishing college. Good pay, likely beats the college grad average.

    May 19, 2014

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