Kettering University and its students take a hands-on role in moving Flint forward

Kettering University and its students take a hands-on role in moving Flint forward

Kettering University and its students are problem-solvers.

The institution, founded in 1919 as General Motors Institute, believes in real-world, hands on cooperative education. That philosophy goes beyond the classroom and its co-op programs and extends into its home city, Flint.

Over the past few years, Kettering students, parents and faculty have lent their time, talents and imagination to the community. The resulting programs have done everything from making local food banks more efficient to creating aquaponics farms to boosting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education across the community.

Kettering students Kyle Mikols and Ryan Webster used 3D printers to make a water filtering device called “The Trunk” when water filters were in short supply in Flint.

Another example is a unique product that came when Flint needed it most. When faucet filters were in short supply because of the water crisis, two students, Kyle Mikols and Ryan Webster, used 3D printers to make some.

Called The Trunk, the one-size-fits-all, 3D-printed product adapts one end of a hose to a home’s faucet and the other end to a compartment, which contains the water filter. It allows residents to use any type of NSF standard filter and to adapt the size to fit their specific faucet.

The Trunk, which takes its name from its resemblance to an elephant trunk and the ability to deliver water, was created as part of the students’ Rapid Prototyping class. The prototype could be made with a 3D printer in 16 hours or less.

“We thought we would come up with a foolproof filter, something anybody could use,” Webster says, pointing out it should not be the sole solution, but it is a good solution in emergencies.

Kettering students are also deeply involved in other Flint projects.

Through community service days, a partnership with community groups and local non-profits, they lend a hand to those in need and can pick the area of improvement that means the most to them.


Kettering student organizations hosted water distribution events during the Flint water crisis. Several of the organizations volunteered at distribution centers to help residents.


Some students did supply chain and industrial engineering projects with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan that helped reroute traffic to more efficiently deliver food. They also went door-to-door to canvass the area to find out what supplies were needed.

At Hurley Medical Center, students helped streamline the efficiency of the parking lot. Others helped Metro Community Development create an aquaponics farm in a shipping container.


When 40 Girl Scouts from Genesee County came to Kettering last December to learn about computer science, 10 Kettering students were on hand to help build those skills. The girls, in grades four through eight, came to campus to participate in the “Hour of Code,” which was part of’s annual Computer Science Education Week. focuses on fun ways to make kids more computer literate.

The girls worked on hands-on problem solving activities and then used the “Hour of Code” website to solve interactive animated puzzles using coding.

Kettering University was founded in 1919 as General Motors Institute. The campus has grown to incorporate volunteerism, neighborhood development, and early education.

“It’s an opportunity to show young people the fun that there is in problem solving. Computer science is a discipline built around problem solving,” says Dr. Jim Huggins, associate professor of computer science at Kettering University. “Teaching the younger generation about computer science can help them get a sense of what kinds of things you can do with this tool we call a computer.”

Kettering will help the next generation learn about model electric vehicles at the Flint Schools Day Camp in July. Thanks to a $32,000 grant from the university’s co-op partner Ford Motor Company, 20 high schoolers in grades 9-12 will attend the camp, which focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

Prashant Javkar, manager of STEAM strategy & programs at Ford, came up with the idea when he visited Kettering’s campus when his son attended a computer engineering camp last summer. Bob Nichols, director of the FIRST Robotics Community Center at Kettering, spent time explaining the university’s commitment to help young students prepare for future success.

“When I visited the campus, I loved the energy of the close-knit community of students and had a fun time witnessing the camp participants compete in the concluding challenge,” says Javkar. “My visit to Kettering in the summer of 2016 let me experience the well-equipped Robotics Center, and a chat with Bob Nichols reinforced the fact that there was a great opportunity to design a summer camp for the Flint community students.”

Nichols hopes to add more STEAM activities to Kettering’s programs. “

The whole idea is to get these students excited about STEAM,” he says. “We are a community center. The partnership with the Flint area students is exactly what we are here for. It is pretty exciting. I think there is a lot of opportunity for us to work with Flint kids.”


Kettering professor Dr. Benjamin Pauli and his wife, Dr. Vivian Kao, a former Kettering professor, saw an opportunity to work with the youngest of Flint’s kids. They set up a Montessori school at Durant Tuuri-Mott Elementary School. While many Montessori schools are private, this one is public and open to all students. “

We are community-minded parents,” Kao says. “We wanted to support our children by giving them a creative, quality education, but we also wanted to support public schools.”

A Montessori school takes an atypical view of learning. Many would first notice the kids don’t sit at desks and are allowed to wander about from hands-on activity to hands-on activity. The system allows kids to become more submerged and invested in their education.

“Kids who naturally gravitate towards math will choose the math-related activities. Kids who are more verbally inclined will naturally gravitate towards the letters and alphabet,” Kao says. “They learn at their own pace.”

So far, the Montessori school is available for kindergarten and first grade at Durant-Tuuri-Mott. Second grade will be added next year, and the hope is to expand it to higher grades if there is a demand.


Kettering launched a student chapter of Habitat for Humanity in 2016, the first student chapter in Genesee County.

Last March, the university took its commitment to being an integral part of the community another step farther with the Employee Home Purchase and Renovation Assistance program. It gives eligible employees forgivable $15,000 loans to buy and live in homes near campus.

The designated neighborhoods are Mott Park, Glendale Hills and Carriage Town. Employees who already own homes in those neighborhoods are eligible for $5,000 forgivable loans to fix up their property. If borrowers adhere to specific requirements, they don’t have to repay the loan.

Kettering University President Robert McMahan is proud and supportive of the city’s character and resilience.

Kettering President Robert McMahan says the school will also help employees make sure houses are safe and meet water safety standards.

“The residents of Flint are strong and resilient, and this is a critical time in our city’s history,” McMahan said in a recent statement. “We at Kettering are committed – through our actions and confidence in the city and its future – to being a leading partner for Flint as the city creates a new narrative of recovery, renewal and reinvention.”

Editor’s Note: Products that earn NSF certification have been tested and certified by an independent lab with no manufacturing ties to parts or product producers. The “NSF certified” or “NSF listed” and applicable NSF certification mark is a recognized “gold” standard and assurance of quality




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