Dr. Jennifer Bastiaan ‘97, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, at Kettering University always knew she wanted to make a difference for the younger generation.
Bastiaan recently took advantage of great opportunity to do just that. In March, she became a leader for the Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) Girls Engineering Exploration (GEE).
“I’ve been involved with SWE for a year and a half. I knew I wanted to be an active participant in the organization when I joined,” Bastiaan said. “Being involved in GEE was a good opportunity to expose young girls to my profession in a fun way and possibly dispel some myths about not only engineers but female engineers. It’s a way to show them that women engineers are normal people. They look like you and me.”
The GEE event took place March 4 at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit. More than 120 girls in grades fourth through sixth attended the day long event.
Bastiaan led an electrical circuits activity for the students titled “Fun with Circuits.” She worked with the girls to show them how an electrical circuit with batteries and little incandescent lights work in a chain. They would watch as the brightness of the bulbs changed as more were attached.
“It was a great way to introduce them to science and engineering in a fun way that they can understand at their grade level,” she said.
Bastiaan enjoys working with younger students. She wants to give them a better understanding of the engineering profession while increasing their confidence so they are excited to potentially pursuit it as a career in the future.
Some stereotypes for engineering might be that it’s a male profession and you have to be male to really understand the basics, Bastiaan said.
“Girls start believing these things in the middle school age range. They believe ‘I’m not as good at it as the boys are,’” she said. “We want to give them confidence that they can do this.”
Bastiaan has been passionately interested in automobiles since she was a child. She would read auto enthusiasts magazines and learn what she could about them.
Attending Kettering University (then General Motors Institute) fit perfectly with Bastiaan’s interests. She wasn’t a traditional student, being that she was already married when she enrolled, but she wanted to follow her passions.
“Cars were my interest. I wanted to work in the car industry and that what’s piqued my interest for Kettering. I like how cars look, how they smell, how they are propelled. There really isn't anything I don’t like about the automobile,” Bastiaan said.
Bastiaan’s career has now come full circle. She studied Mechanical Engineering at Kettering and is now teaching it on campus.
After a fairly long career in the auto industry, Bastiaan wanted to make an impact in a different way. And she wanted to do it at Kettering.
“Kettering has a unique value in terms of the co-op program and in terms of preparing students for the industry,” Bastiaan said. “I want to do my part.”
Vehicle dynamics is Bastiaan’s specialty at Kettering. She also researches sound and vibrations in the context of automobiles, with a strong focus on tires.
The motion of a car or truck is primarily determined by tire forces so it’s important to study and understand how they work, Bastiaan said.
Being able to share her expertise and knowledge to not only Kettering students but to young girls through SWE and the GEE program is important.
“It’s the personal interaction that's the advantage of events like that. Being able to meet them in person and talk to them is the best part of an occasion like this. It’s an opportunity to expose them to STEM and Kettering,” Bastiaan said. “It’s great to see them smile when they learn about science and engineering.”