A World in Motion drives innovation at St. Anne

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published May 24, 2012

 Warren Fire Department Sgt. Kevin Falkowski helps St. Anne fourth-grader Kassie Trudeau of Warren, 10, don firefighting equipment during a vehicle show held at the conclusion of the A World in Motion program.

Warren Fire Department Sgt. Kevin Falkowski helps St. Anne fourth-grader Kassie Trudeau of Warren, 10, don firefighting equipment during a vehicle show held at the conclusion of the A World in Motion program.

Photo by Brian C. Louwers

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WARREN — Math and science can be fun. Just ask the students at Warren’s St. Anne Catholic Grade School, who finished the six-session A World in Motion program with presentations, a car show and treats May 22.

The program, started by the Society of Automotive Engineers, brought a team of volunteers, including several General Motors Co. employees, to the school, where they shared their love and knowledge of engineering concepts with fourth- and fifth-grade students.

Namir Zara, a lead suspension engineer at Warren’s GM Technical Center and a volunteer building coordinator for the AWIM program at St. Anne, said the goal is to spark an interest in math and science that will eventually lead students to consider careers in engineering.

“In the last 10 years in the United States, we a have been losing engineering graduates,” Zara said. “We went from 150,000 to 50,000.”

Zara said the SAE started working with students more than 20 years ago, coordinating hands-on activities — building paper sailboats, or “jet” toys propelled by balloons — and related lessons in schools across the country.

Students study all facets of the engineering and design process, including prototype construction, advertising and presentation of the finished products to get a sense of what engineering careers involve through a curriculum that provides firsthand experience with the work and its rewards.

“We’re teaching the children all these things, and how fun it is to see the results of your work,” Zara said. “We tell them engineering is a good career.”

The life lessons learned through AWIM are valuable beyond the classroom or the workplace, St. Anne fifth-grade teacher Laura Ralstrom said.

“The most obvious one is teamwork. We all had a common goal, and we came together to do it,” Ralstrom said. “There are also guidelines. There are rules, but we can still get to our goal within these guidelines.”

Seeing the finished projects, inspired by their imagination, move across the table or floor was a reward in an of itself for the students, she said.

“It made their day,” Ralstrom said.

Zara said GM has been supportive of its engineers volunteer efforts to support AWIM.

The SAE founded the program in 1990, and GM continues to expand its participative efforts in more than two-dozen communities across the United States.

Zara said AWIM programs are held in more than 1,200 classrooms across the country, including about 300 in Michigan.

For more information, visit www.awim.org.

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