DEARBORN - This year, Ford went a little further on “Take Our Children to Work Day,” providing kids with a new and improved showcase of innovation within the workplace.
The day embodied the spirit of innovation that guided company founder Henry Ford and was embraced by the children of Ford employees during the annual event.
At Ford’s Research and Innovation Center, the nerve center that generates many of the company’s future technologies, employees’ children were able to experience various laboratories and conduct experiments showing them firsthand how subjects like math and science are used to create new vehicle technologies.
Bob Novak, Research and Advanced Engineering, led a demonstration clad in his tie-dye lab coat, as he showed the kids how the extremely cold temperature of liquid nitrogen drastically changes the mechanical properties of materials by experimenting with common objects such as balloons, marshmallows and pop bottles.
“Liquid nitrogen is always used in a cooling capacity because of the way it cools,” Novak said. “We put together some engine parts where we have two dissimilar metals – we’ll heat one and cool the other one so we can slip them together and get a permanent fit.”
Other experiments included engineering a way to keep an egg safe in a crash mirroring testing tools used by Ford crash safety engineers to design vehicles, using human motion measurement. Children also learned about light and electron microscopes that magnify up to 400,000 times to see objects in a new way and explored a multifunctional seat prototype that responds to voice commands.
While these activities might constitute just another day at the office for many of those in advanced technology fields, the program allowed children to experience how the jobs performed by their parents contribute to the company’s future vehicle technologies.
“It’s important for our future generations to be excited about how school subjects like math and science can be applied in everyday life, including the role they play in the auto industry,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer. “It’s gratifying to see the same spirit of innovation Henry Ford embraced is alive and well in these children and in their parents as we develop new technologies for our vehicles.”
Mascarenas announced five children as winners, and each walked away with a miniature version of a Ford vehicle.
Afterward, at the Conference and Event Center, Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally hosted a town hall conversation with more than 600 employees and children who also had a chance to participate in a range of hands-on activities.
“It is so nice that you are here,” Mulally said. “Your moms and dads have done fantastic jobs and working at Ford is so important. We are contributing to economic development, energy independence and security and environmental sustainability. We are so proud of your parents and so proud that you are here with them today.”
One of the kids asked him if he ever wanted to be anything else besides the CEO.
“What I really wanted to be was an astronaut,” he said. “So I joined the Air Force, started flight training and became a pilot. I was doing really well and was getting ready to go to the moon, but then I found out I suffered from color blindness. So I chose to go back to school, found my love of airplanes and then later got the call from Bill Ford.”
Mulally reminded the kids that “everything that happens in life is like gems, when one door closes another door opens.”
Another child asked Mulally why he was important.
“All of your parents are getting a chance to serve Ford, and that means they are making contributions to something that is really important, and it is a wonderful thing to serve,” Mulally responded. “I have also been asked to serve Ford. Here is the biggest thing I have learned: It is nice to be important … it is even more important to be nice.”
As the event wrapped up, Mulally emphasized the importance of the children’s education and the significant role their parents play in Ford’s success.