Meet Kimberly Betty, STEAM Sports Foundation's Automotive/Motorsports Scholarship Winner
Her estranged dad whom she was just getting to know, died earlier this year. Her mom, a tremendous source of strength and encouragement, has found it difficult to get work in her home country of Jamaica. She’s had to tackle college as an international student during the Covid era via online classes from an apartment in Flint, MI.  Her car during “work term” kept breaking down. Money is always tight. She’s learning what it’s like to be Black, a female and not from this country. She wants to be an engineer and travel the world. Her resolve is nothing less than remarkable. Meet Kimberly Betty, announced last week as STEAM Sports Foundation's inaugural automotive/motorsports scholarship winner.

Describe growing up in Jamaica?
I would describe it as normal or at least what I perceived as normal. My favorite things to look forward to were class parties and Christmas celebration. It was interesting to see some of the differences here, like how big Thanksgiving was. We didn’t always have resources for what we needed growing up, so I guess that’s why Christmas is/was special. It was a time to celebrate the little something extra. There were always sacrifices made to reach my goal.

What about family?
I have two brothers and two sisters. I was the youngest. We grew up living with Mom. She was the provider. Dad left when I was young, but gladly, he made efforts to get to know me once I took an interest in studying abroad. Sadly, he died earlier this year just as we were beginning to get reacquainted. I was thankful that he took an interest, but sad that I lost him.  Our family had its ups and downs but were a combined family connected by a cause.

Talk about your mom, her influence on you.
Mom is very spiritual person. She is the person who tells me I can do it She tells me I can do anything I put my mind to. She pushes me. I’ve seen sacrifices she’s made to get us comfortable and not have us think we had anything less than anyone else around us. Her message was always, “ Get there. Be there. Put out your best effort. Take every opportunity and be grateful for it.” She makes me believe I can achieve anything I want out there.

How did you decide upon Kettering? 
One summer in high school, I did a program at Kettering though a recruitment program, AIM (Academically Interested Minds). I qualified for a Kettering AIM scholarship. I knew I wanted to go to Kettering, because of its core program plus I had no idea how I was going to be able to pay for college, so the AIM scholarship was important. Mom wasn’t working. Income not stable. I had to find a way. Being from Jamaica was a huge disadvantage for me. I never had any engineering in high school, but I decided to come back to Kettering to learn, even if I had to catch up. I was ready for that.

Describe your experience at Kettering so far.
Most of it has been during the pandemic. For me, I’ve really enjoyed online class. It took a while to get used to .  During my senior year in high school, I learned to cope online, so when I came to Kettering, I knew how to cope. But I still wasn’t used to sitting in front of a computer all day. I would attend my online classes where I was most comfortable. Sometimes I would walk to downtown Flint and find a change of venue to do my class. A change of location would force mind to stay focused. I liked the flexibility to go anywhere and still do a course online. I liked the flexibility of being two places at once.

What have you liked most at Kettering?
I honestly don’t’ believe I’ve had the true experience yet. I really like the environment and support system for students like me – international, people of color. There are people here to help with problems. They are there for us and listen to our cry because it’s been pretty tough. 
What’s been the toughest part so far?
Losing Dad during my first term was nerve racking. I really didn’t’ want to do anything anymore. I started “work term” (co-op internship) and had horrible transportation  I couldn’t find housing near where I was to work. My car kept breaking down. There was no public transport. Uber was not available in the area. I called airport service and it was $70 per trip. I’m now living in an apartment with roommates. 

What aspect of mechanical engineering interests you most? 
When I chose mechanical engineering as my major, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I had not done much of it before, but I decided to jump right in rather than go “undecided”. My first, class – Mech 100 introduced us to the cad machine. It was hard to learn but I jumped right in. By time of the final project, I had designed and entirely reengineered a faucet with features to accommodate persons with disabilities - turn on water without getting burned, control water temperature, unique features. That got me interested in design. In second term manufacturing, I saw my designs come to life. I learned what I was doing wrong. I was able to call out my own mistakes, figure out how to make changes and make my design better. I learned to identify problems and create solutions.

Where did you get interest, the love, for cars and mechanical things?
Probably when I learned how to drive. At Kettering, I learned to appreciate and become more knowledgeable about cars more and developed a real interest in EVs (electric vehicles) and AVs (autonomous vehicles), cars of the futures. EVs and AVs bring innovation and push change in the auto industry to meet new standards.

Talk about your enjoyment of motorsports.
My first exposure to motorsports was street racing in Jamaica. You could literally hear it from my home. I eventually learned about NASCAR and Formula One. I really look forward to taking some of the things I’m learning here at Kettering to my NASCAR internship next summer. I’m eager to hear how some of those engineers believe the auto and motorsports industry will evolve.

How do you approach the challenges of being a minority engineering student in what has been traditionally a non-minority career path?
I am a black female international student among many guys. I understand that I am part of a marginalized group in the auto world . To some, it might seem like the worst thing. Sometimes the guys think you can’t do anything and put you down as a female, making you feel like you don’t belong. You begin to question everything. Is this the place for me?  But in my head, I know that I deserve and have right to be here. I’m strong headed. One time, I was in group of laid-back guys who didn’t seem to have any sense of urgency to get a project done.  But I wanted to get it done now. I sent out an email and said this is how we are going to do this. At the end of term, one guy said it made him change his outlook on how he was doing things and treating others. I constantly remind myself that I belong and deserve to be here. As an international student, I don’t have a great background with auto or robotics yet, but put me in a place where I feel like an outcast, and I will push forward. Challenges are tough. Some guys make me feel like I don’t belong here – and being the only female in the room says that to me sometimes. 

What would you like to do when you graduate?
I want to travel anywhere in the world. I want to be an engineer, not confined to one area, but able to play multiple roles and be as diverse as I can be.

Prediction about the auto industry 10 years from now.
While I don’t think fuel pump cars will be completely obliterated, EVs and AVs will see a great evolution – batteries that last longer for EVs. AVs that are safer so people don’t have to monitor them. Better answers for what happens when technology fails and how to correct quickly. No steering wheels are very cool, but what happens when the technology fails? What takes over? How will AVs monitor ahead of time what needs to be fixed. I’d like to play a role in steer-by-wire systems. Really want to understand how that works and how to make it better. How to advance it. 

Tell us a little bit about the personal side of Kimberly Betty. Hobbies? What do you like to do for fun? To relax? 
I love road trips. I’m a good planner for trips. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet learned how to coordinate weather to my planned trips. But I’m always open to adventures. I want to try skydiving and bungy jumping. On a regular day – watch a movie. Big foodie. My mom, a chef. I always want to try new restaurants.

STEAM Sports Foundation’s Automotive/Motorsports scholarship is for women of color who aspire to a career in the burgeoning transportation industry that is focusing more and more on alternative energies such as electrical and autonomous vehicles (EVs and AVs). Through NASCAR’s Diversity and Inclusion Program, Betty will undertake an internship with the Series or one of its teams next summer.

Dickinson Partners Group |