Shaping young minds

Mar 20, 2009

Alumna Nichole Maurer earned her degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2004 and went to work for Tenneco Automotive soon afterward. But in 2008, she turned to teaching high school Algebra, a change that allows her to encourage students to study science, technology, engineering and math.

By her own account, Nichole Maurer (formerly Carrick) used the opportunities presented to her through Kettering University’s cooperative education program to their fullest extent.

She began at the University in 2000, studying Mechanical Engineering and working her co-op terms with Tenneco Automotive in Grass Lake, Mich. Following graduation, she took a full-time position with Tenneco as a GM cold end development engineer, performing admirably for the organization. However, she felt an itch for teaching and in August of 2006 began taking courses at Olivet College full-time.

“Fortunately, I was able to coordinate it well with Tenneco to work full-time in my engineering position and go to school full-time for three semesters until I completed my certification,” she said. “Tenneco was great in working with me. But eventually I had to quit my engineering position in January of last year to start my student-teaching. In May 2008 I graduated with my teaching certificate and I am currently certified to teach grades 6-12 in Mathematics and Chemistry,” she added.

Today, she teaches Algebra I classes and an Algebra Support class at Cass City High School in Cass City, Mich., in Michigan’s scenic thumb area. Some, like Maurer, view a burgeoning engineering career as the ultimate career, but for her, the chance to shape young minds in their study of math and science offered more appeal.

“Because engineering is my background and I enjoyed what I did as an engineer, I encourage my students to consider engineering, math or science-related careers,” she explained. “I talk about the abundance of opportunities that are out there for math and science fields, as well as the number of doors that are opened up with an engineering, math or science degree,” she added.

From time to time, students convey to her that they don’t believe they will ever need to use Algebra or math once they finish high school. But Maurer always has a good response to this issue.

“I remind them that everything they use and do has been touched by math and engineers in some way or another. My personal favorite examples to use are the IPod/MP3 players and cell phones, as well as their dream cars and trucks. Even their Nike tennis shoes and Under Armor athletic clothing,” she said.

To drive home this idea, she has discussed with her students the amount of computer simulations companies perform before they manufacture parts, particularly for such vehicles as the Corvette, T-Bird and Viper. In addition, as a former team member of the SAE Clean Snowmobile Team at Kettering, she brings in photographs from the competitions and from a trip the team took to Graz,Austria, which helps reinforce the importance of engineering and need for extracurricular activities.

“I also bring in to class engineering articles and other examples to help students see that what they are doing in terms of math and Algebra is not meaningless. The earlier students are exposed to science, technology, engineering and math, the more comfortable they become and less intimidated they feel,” she said.

During her time on campus as a student, Maurer participated on the SAE Clean Snowmobile Team, the Society of Women Engineers and played intramural sports with many of her lifelong friends. She stopped by campus during the spring of 2008 on her way past town and visited with Dr. Greg Davis, Clint Lee and Ray Rust of the ME Department, and was pleased when Davis and Lee were able to attend her wedding in August.

Originally from Charlotte, Mich., Maurer and her husband Jake, who also graduated with an ME degree from Kettering in 2004, live on a centennial farm in Ruth, Mich. In her spare time she enjoys running, showing horses at competitions and spending time with Jake outdoors.

Written by Gary J. Erwin