WCX 2024: Volunteers Sought for SAE’s AWIM Student Challenges

SAE’s A World In Motion (AWIM) program uses toy building to jumpstart kids’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Charlie Freese, GM’s executive director of Global Hydrotec, mentors an 8th-grade fuel-cell toy car challenge team from the Pontiac School District’s International Technology Academy in 2018. (Rosana Hull)

Raise your hand if you want to get kids excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Connecting fun and STEM skills is a key aspect of being an industry volunteer in SAE’s A World In Motion (AWIM) program.

“For an AWIM industry volunteer, what’s important goes beyond giving back — it’s about reconnecting with why you went into a STEM field and sharing that passion with the next generation of STEM leaders,” said Rosana Hull, a General Motors senior manufacturing engineer and SAE Detroit board member-at-large. The self-professed AWIM ambassador spoke with SAE Media prior to her rallying call for volunteers at her WCX 2024 Knowledge Bar session happening Wednesday, April 17 at 1 p.m.

AWIM has reached more than six million pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students around the world since its inception in 1990. Age-appropriate classroom projects are focused on various activities. For example, student teams building a balloon-powered toy car learn about jet propulsion, friction and air resistance, while those building a fuel-cell toy car gain knowledge about electrical current and energy consumption, among other insights.

Rosana Hull is a long-time AWIM advocate and industry volunteer to the SAE program for elementary and middle school students. (Rosana Hull)

AWIM provides all the materials needed to build the appropriate toys to each team. “Everyone on the team has a role, so you could be in charge of the materials, or be a project manager, or be a test engineer,” Hull said. Each team will test different design iterations, then use those testing results as the basis for building the final toy that meets the project’s design requirements.

“When students have that ‘a-ha’ moment, that has a positive effect on me,” Hull said. “Sometimes students come up with very unique things in their toy building. It’s probably not what you would do, but it opens you up to a more diverse viewpoint and allows you to go back to your job and have a new problem-solving approach.”

More than 30,000 engineers, scientists and technology specialists have volunteered with AWIM. Hull notes that many GM salaried workers have gone into classrooms as AWIM industry volunteers, including fuel-cell engineers who mentored students involved with the fuel-cell toy car challenge, and gear engineers who mentored students tasked with developing new electric gear-driven designs for the motorized toy car challenge. “Going back into the classroom as an AWIM industry volunteer reignites your passion for engineering,” Hull said. “It’s also a reminder of the amazing work you do daily as an engineer.”

Elizabeth Simon, PhD and senior education program specialist for SAE International, said that external evaluations have shown that AWIM increases a student’s knowledge and interest in STEM as well as being an ignitor for pursuing further education and careers in STEM-related fields.