Photo: Columbus North High School
061020 Mathworks Ix

Following footsteps to an engineering career in trucking

June 10, 2020
The trucking industry can play a part in mentoring youth to help solve some of the many problems facing moving goods in a cost-effective and sustainable manner moving forward.

It’s interesting how people determine their career path. Recently, I was talking to Jennifer Rumsey, president of components at Cummins, Inc., and she was telling me that her dad was an engineer who worked at Cummins for many years. When Jennifer showed an aptitude for math and science her dad and “the engineers in my life suggested I consider engineering as a career,” she said. She went on to get both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and ended up following in her father’s footsteps working for Cummins, becoming the top engineer as she held the position of Chief Technical Officer for four years.

Fast forward to a month ago when you would have found Jennifer’s daughter and four of her classmates at Columbus North High School in Columbus, Ind., home of Cummins, as one of the 760 teams participating in MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge sponsored by the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).

For 15 years, problems have included challenges such as climate issues for national parks, substance abuse, and reducing food waste. This year, students were asked to use their math modeling skills to resolve problems involving the conversion from diesel to electric power for commercial semi-trucks. In fact, NACFE worked with SIAM to develop the particulars of the questions for this year’s challenge.

What is ironic is that while the kids on the Columbus North Team were working through the problems in the 14 hours the competition allows, they had an expert just one floor up — Jennifer’s basement was where her daughter’s team worked on the problem. But the rules don’t allow for outside help; although students are allowed to use the internet for research. The Columbus North team’s resulting report and math models did well enough to be one of six finalists, earning $5,000 in scholarships for the team. Very well done!

Jennifer mentioned that all the kids on her daughter’s team had some connection to Cummins and that with electric trucks being in the news the kids had some context for the problem they were asked to solve. What Jennifer likes about the M3 challenge is that “it is a great way to expose kids to a real-world problem and have them use some of the skills they have and even push themselves on their math skills in a meaningful and applied way.”

Mostly when we hear about high school team activities, we hear about the basketball team or the football team or the soccer team, but it seems like lots of kids are math-athletes too. That bodes well for the future. These types of competitions can open kids’ eyes to the possibilities of jobs in industries they might not have considered before.

As we move on to an electric future, we are going to need a host of engineering types, from mechanical to chemical to electrical, so Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) skills will be even more in demand.

Just as Jennifer followed in her father’s footsteps and became an engineer, perhaps one or more of the Columbus North M3 Challenge team members might choose engineering as a career. Time will tell. We can all play a part in mentoring our youth to help us solve some of the many problems facing moving goods in a cost-effective and sustainable manner moving forward. Ask yourself what you can do today to help ensure some of the amazing high school STEM students find their way into trucking. And then go do it. We need them!

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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