“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”
Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC and Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake LLC contributed that quote – by Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut in space – as part of its sponsorship of Women in Science Day at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH), which took place Feb. 9. The event, now in its second year, celebrated the contributions women from around the world have made to science with panels, hands-on activities and special programs for 1,500 girls and boys. Jemison’s quote joined others in adorning exhibit tables as sources of inspiration for attendees.
Bendix also participated in the event as an exhibitor to show how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) impact our daily lives. Eight women who work in STEM at Bendix helped to educate students through activities on sustainability, coding and circuits. From providing firsthand exposure of engineering labs to sponsoring school maker spaces, Bendix says it is committed to inspiring future STEM professionals by helping to unleash their creativity and innovative spirit.
At the CMNH Women in Science Day event, Maria Gutierrez, Bendix director of corporate responsibility and sustainability, provided a welcome to introduce the Science Graduate Student Panel. Gutierrez, trained as a chemical and environmental engineer, aims to inspire young girls to pursue science and disband the myth that women in science don’t fit society’s expectations.
“According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce. I want to encourage young girls to be all they can be,” Gutierrez said. “At Bendix, we are creating an encouraging environment for women to thrive in – as we portray with all these successful women in our business. Diversity in our workforce brings a variety of different ideas and ways of thinking that will only result in creative innovation.”
Gutierrez is one of many women who have a technical background helping to shape Bendix’s future, work in a technical role, or both. A small sampling of others includes: Barb Albrecht, whose training in mechanical engineering has served her well as program manager for customer retrofit; Rebecca Carter, an industrial engineer who works as product manager for specialty valves; Cheryl Greenly, a trained electrical engineer who earned a law degree and serves as one of Bendix’s intellectual property attorneys; and Nicole Oreskovic, who brings her mechanical engineering training to bear in her role as product line director for air disc brakes.
STEM Education for All
Bendix said it wants to encourage the next generation of STEM professionals in the communities it calls home. Through on-site programming, sponsorships and employee volunteerism, the company aims to raise awareness of the value of a STEM education and careers.
“The world is on the cusp of a revolution in work, with technology fueling innovation and opportunity beyond our imaginations. STEM jobs have doubled as a proportion of all jobs since the Industrial Revolution. New jobs and entirely new fields are being created daily,” Gutierrez said. “Estimates suggest that 65 percent of children entering elementary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that are not on our radar yet.”
Gutierrez also noted that, in addition to helping prepare students for the changing world of work, companies like Bendix also have a personal stake in building the numbers of STEM-educated young people: “With Bendix being a technology- and innovation-driven company, we want to ensure we will be able to fill the critical skilled roles in STEM that we have or will have by promoting STEM in the younger generations of students.”
To inspire students to explore science and technology, Bendix opens its door for students to learn firsthand what engineering is. In 2018, students from nearby Avon Lake High School visited Bendix’s Elyria, Ohio, headquarters for a day of plant tours, demonstrations and hands-on activities to learn how engineers work on everything from design to testing. Younger students also have a chance to meet Bendix’s engineers and participate in engineering activities during the company’s annual Discover Engineering event.
Bendix provides further support for STEM education by sponsoring events like CMNH’s Women in Science Day and donating funds for educational spaces. Last year, the company donated $12,500 to Elyria Catholic High School to create a maker space. The maker space is a collaborative classroom for students to develop STEM-related technology and entrepreneurial skills. Through donations from Bendix and other sponsors, the school was able to provide students with technology, including 3-D printers, drones, a laser cutter and an iPad kiosk.
The company has also contributed to the support of robotics teams, programs and competitions across North America. And as part of a long-standing tradition of giving back to their communities, Bendix employees go above and beyond to support the education of future STEM students and professionals. Employees consistently contribute their time and talents to assist with student visits, volunteer as mentors and submit educational projects for corporate grants through the Get Involved! Program.
Barb Albrecht works regularly with students at the high school and college levels to offer guidance and insights from her 26 years at Bendix.
“I see it as a way of keeping in touch with the engineering community and helping to transfer my experience to others who are just beginning their careers,” she said.
Bendix employs approximately 300 engineers performing R&D, design, quality, manufacturing, testing and technical sales support roles to assist in the production of the company’s integrated active safety, air management, and braking system technologies.
“Bendix is an incredibly fertile environment for STEM. We love giving students an inside look at this world to help foster creativity and knowledge expansion within them,” Gutierrez said. “Through firsthand experiences, sponsorships and employees giving their time, Bendix hopes it can help to encourage future generations to pursue STEM.”