LITEing the way

Jul 21, 2006

Unblocking an "artery" clogged with peanut butter using a syringe, duct tape and balloons was almost as fun as running the crash sled for girls participating in LITE.

Building a simulated angioplasty device out of household items, performing simulation surgeries on a hip and knee and learning the ins and outs of bio-engineering and bio-chemistry is a great way to spend your summer - at least that's what more than 30 high school-aged girls from across the U.S. think.


They came to Kettering University to spend two weeks learning about academic programs and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math through the Lives Improve Through Engineering (LITE) program. This year program, celebrating its fifth year, gave high school seniors (in the fall) hands-on experiences in Bio-Engineering, Bio-Chemistry, Structural Design and Crash Test Safety during two weeks on Kettering's campus.

LITE is designed to introduce young women to various fields and career opportunities in Engineering, and highlight the importance of math and science in preparing for college. "It is important to keep girls engaged in math and science during junior high and high school so they are academically prepared to pursue Engineering in college," said Betsy Homsher, director of Women Student Affairs at Kettering.

There is currently a nation-wide crisis in Science, Engineering, Engineering and Technology (STEM) degree programs. Enrollment in STEM degrees declined steadily over the past five years while the demand for engineers has risen. Women traditionally enter STEM professions in areas that directly benefit people.

"Only 14 percent of all professional engineers are women," said Dr. Patrick Atkinson, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at Kettering. "Pre-college programs like LITE give young women a chance to find out what Engineering is all about and find their niche inthe field of Engineering," he said.

"Engineering is a wonderful profession for women," added Homsher, "not only does it afford women economic independence, but many of the best companies hiring women engineers have great family-friendly programs, which make it possible for women to balance their professions and family life."

In addition to labs and lectures, LITE participants had an opportunity to meet women engineers and scientists and learn about how engineers improve people's lives by applying math, science and technology to human problems.

A special bonus activity this year was helping the Engineers Without Borders A-Section chapter complete its project to build climbing towers on the playground of every Flint Community School District elementary school.

This year's LITE courses included: Biomechanics - the study of the mechanics of the human body, and how bones and muscles work and why, taught by husband and wife team Dr. Patrick Atkinson, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and Dr. Theresa Atkinson, independent crash test safety researcher.

Vehicle Collision - Accident reconstruction and occupant kinematics - the study of auto-accident reconstruction and how occupants interact with vehicle safety systems, taught by Dr. Janet Brelin-Fornari, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Biochemistry - the basics of biochemistry including the four main bio-molecules: proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and nucleic acids, taught by Dr.s Ali Zand and Stacy Seeley, both associate professors of Chemistry.

This year's LITE participants were:

  • Alice Chuang, Orange, CA
  • Andria Ellis, Red Bluff, CA
  • Marisa Mitchell, Palmdale, CA
  • Michelle Sing, Carmel, IN
  • Kate Brownson, Murray, KY
  • Shannan Smith, St. Martinville, LA
  • Erika Baker, Riley Twp., MI
  • Kimberly Cole, Corunna, MI
  • Alexandra Doan, Macomb, MI
  • LisaErikson, Clinton Twp., MI
  • Jennifer Husk, Warren, MI
  • Brianna Iott, Onsted, MI
  • Samantha Johnson, Manistee, MI
  • Janine Lambert, Troy, MI
  • Andrea Matuska, Rochester Hills, MI
  • Hannah Middleton, Lapeer, MI
  • Krista Ply, Montrose, MI
  • Kristina Polidan, Fenton, MI
  • Amy Saelen, Chesterfield, MI
  • Lauren Szabo, Bloomfield Hills, MI
  • Amanda Tate, Swartz Creek, MI
  • Ashley Thomas, Swartz Creek, MI
  • Rayanne Torok, Swartz Creek, MI
  • Casey Vanucci, Flint, MI
  • Lexi Walter, Ada, MI
  • Rachel Wood, Warren, MI
  • Kathryn Stillman, Horn Lake, MS
  • Cynthia Landgren, Billings, MT
  • Joy Jeyaratnam, Steubenville, OH
  • Katie Colbaugh, North Huntingdon, PA
  • Anna Burns, Winnsboro, SC

In addition to the academics, participants also have a chance to get to know current Kettering students who serve as mentors to the program. Student mentors often taking unpaid leave from their co-op jobs to be LITE mentors.

The 2006 LITE mentors were:

  • Lu Chen, Mt. Morris, MI
  • Julie Reno, Warren, MI
  • Andrea De Vries, West Olive, MI
  • Lidia Forgaciu, Rochester Hills, MI
  • Brittany Murty, Rochester, NY
  • Jessica Forman, Leonard, MI
  • Erin Waddell, South Lyon, MI
  • Tracy Schmitz, Shelby Twp., MI
  • Kelly Okapal, Sylvania, OH
  • Erika Perkola, Sterling Heights, MI
  • Britney Behrens, Ypsilanti, MI
  • Jennifer Norman, Lake City, MI
  • Feba Pothen, Waterford, MI
  • Kahrema Simon, Flint, MI

Many LITE participants matriculate at Kettering because of their pre-college experience. This year, five young women from the 2005 LITE program enrolled in A-Section of the freshman class which began July 10. Another seven are slated to join the B-Section freshman class in October.

For more information about the LITE program, contact Deborah Stewart, director of Orientation and Special Programs for Student Affairs at (810)762-9679 or via email at

Written by Dawn Hibbard
(810) 762-9865