West Michigan explores, 'What is an Engineer?'

Mar 19, 2013

The second annual open house in Grand Rapids invites students for hands-on exhibits and friendly conversations.

Anna Czekaj of Grand Rapids
Anna Czekaj of Grand Rapids

Students in grades 6-12 in West Michigan, who are curious about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers, are eligible to win a Kindle Fire, remote-control helicopters, Lego kits and t-shirts at the second annual “What Is An Engineer” demonstration on Tuesday, April 16.

Students from Kent County public schools, West Michigan Catholic Schools, Christian high schools and students who are homeschooled are invited, along with their families, to this evening of robot and science demonstrations and an evening of conversations with engineering students, engineers and college professors.

The event is Tuesday, April 16, from 6-9 p.m. on the second floor of Aquinas College's Wege Center. It is hosted by Kettering University, Aquinas College and West Michigan Catholic Schools. Cost for the event is $5 per student.

“There are great paying careers available in the STEM fields and this event is designed to show West Michigan students why they should give them a try,” said Armen Oumedian, a retired Grand Rapids businessman and 1949 graduate of Kettering University. “I work with West Michigan business people all the time who are feeling an urgency to recruit more technically trained young people. There are new opportunities coming to our region and it’s our job to make sure the trained workforce is there when they arrive in West Michigan.”

Oumedian said participants attending “What Is An Engineer” will experience and be engaged by hands-on demonstrations. “Kettering University will showcase interesting aspects of biomedical, chemical, electrical, industrial, manufacturing and mechanical engineering and physics,” he said. “Our goal is to interest these kids while their minds are curious and open to possibilities,” he explained. “And we want their parents to understand that after graduation engineers can earn $70,000 a year, with plenty of room for career advancement. STEM jobs and opportunities are real.”

Samuel Gravelle of Grand Rapids
Samuel Gravelle of Grand Rapids

Keynote speaker for the evening is Dr. Patrick Atkinson, a professor of Mechanical Engineering and the co-adviser of Premed education at Kettering University. He will talk about the ways that engineering and medicine are blending, creating a multitude of career possibilities.

Live demonstrations are expanded in this second annual event. Participants will see hands on exhibits from biomedical, chemical engineering, electrical engineering and mechatronics, along with fun with Physics exhibits and an industrial engineering controls panel. There will be two robot demonstrations -- the FIRST Robotics Team of Grand Rapids West Catholic High School will bring their student-built robot for a demonstration and Legos in Paradise team. Each will offer continuous demonstrations, starting at 6 p.m.

The highlight of the evening is a chance for parents and students to ask specific questions of a panel of current Kettering University engineering students and graduates, all from West Michigan.

  • Anna Czekaj of Grand Rapids, a freshman at Kettering majoring in Chemical Engineering and employed at Perrigo Co. of Allegan.
  • Samuel Gravelle of Grand Rapids, a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering, who was homeschooled and whose co-op is at Bissell Homecare.
  • Luke March of Belding, who also was homeschooled and is a senior at Kettering in Engineering Physics. His co-op is also at Bissell Homecare.
  • Peter Thorwall of West Olive, who also was homeschooled, is a recent Mechanical Engineering graduate of Kettering University. He is currently employed as a design engineer at M.W. Watermark.

Several prizes will be awarded including a Kindle Fire, several remote controlled helicopters and Lego kits. All registrants will get a specialized event t-shirt. 

Space is limited. RSVPs are due no later than April 9.  Send $5 per student to the Foundation for Catholic Secondary Education, Attention Michael Wolfston/What is an Engineer, 360 Division Ave, South, Grand Rapids, Mich., 49503. 

Contact: Patricia Mroczek