Calumet students take first in Michigan Girls Future Flight Challenge

CALUMET — Two Calumet-area girls recently took the Michigan aerospace industry by storm.

A Monday release from Calumet Electronics states Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw Schools’ Washington Middle School students Jordan Hicks and Kristen Ylitalo outperformed more than 20 teams throughout the state in the Michigan Girls Future Flight Challenge, hosted by the Women of Aerospace Industry Association of Michigan.

Hicks and Ylitalo creatively rose to the challenge to design a sustainable, unique way of flight that solves a problem — impressing key players in the aerospace industry like Eaton, Array of Engineers and Calumet Electronics.

“Jordan and Kristen are exactly the type of energetic and strategic thinkers that are needed for the future of the aerospace industry,” said Calumet Electronics’ chief technical officer Meredith LaBeau and Audra Thurston, research and development managing engineer, who served as mentors throughout the four-week event.

After brainstorming on a variety of ideas and possibilities with LaBeau, Hicks and Ylitalo decided to tackle the challenge of fire damage. Using a 3D printed drone, a smoke detector and a camera, the two developed a prototype that would quickly detect fires, alert firefighters and enable them to immediately respond to the scene to limit as much damage as possible.

-In addition to developing the prototype, they were required to create marketing materials, as well as a business plan, and present a 15-page slide deck to a group of three judges from major corporations across the state.

As the aerospace industry continues to grow in Michigan, it is critical to get young girls excited about STEM and open their eyes to the multitude of career possibilities they could have. The Michigan Girls Future Flight Challenge served as an opportunity for girls to dip their toes into the industry as they begin to think about what their futures could look like, the release said.

“We hope this program inspires young girls to get interested and pursue careers in STEM,” Thurston said. “The aerospace industry needs more people — especially women — who are excited about STEM and want to solve the world’s problems.”

Established as one of the most important printed circuit board suppliers in the country, Calumet Electronics is taking the lead to infuse young people into the industry to protect and grow the future of PCB manufacturing in America. “I was thrilled to work with Kristin and Jordan and show them that they have support to pursue a future in aerospace, whether that be on the business or engineering side,” LaBeau said. “It’s impressive that these girls competed against so many teams from across the entire state and won, representing their school, community and the entire Upper Peninsula. I am so proud of them, and I know they both have bright futures ahead.”

LaBeau, Thurston and Calumet Electronics Vice President and Chief Operating officer Todd Brassard visited the seventh-grade class to present Ylitalo and Hicks with $500 gift cards, hats, and notebooks and speak to their class to get them excited about aerospace.


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