As a group of 10 girls in teal T-shirts assembled robots in a UW-Stout lab, Kari Berthiaume thought back to when she was in middle school. “I wish I had the opportunity to do something like this when I was that age. It’s a key time for them to explore some of these things,” Berthiaume said.
Although Berthiaume never attended a weeklong science camp as a youth, she became a role model for the 160 girls who attended UW-Stout’s 21st annual STEPS for Girls camps over four weeks in July and early August. Berthiaume, of Colfax, recently was promoted to an Advanced Manufacturing manager for Andersen Corporation’s Research and Development organization at its headquarters in Bayport, Minnesota. In this new role for the national window and door manufacturer, she leads a team of engineers who are responsible for implementing new manufacturing systems at multiple company locations across the US.
Previously, she worked for 10 years as a manufacturing engineer and three years as the engineering manager at the company’s window assembly facility in Menomonie after graduating from UW-Stout in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering.
Having succeeded in the mostly male world of engineering, she was giving back at the camp by helping girls build their confidence in and consider careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields.
“This experience is empowering them to be confident, set their goals high and be able to achieve them. They’re learning life skills,” Berthiaume said.
During their two hours in the manufacturing lab with Berthiaume, girls also learned how to set up a manufacturing line. As an exercise, they first assembled pens, doing it much faster when they developed a team system. Their speed increased from assembling a few pens to as many as 18 in two minutes. “It’s very interactive. The girls are very engaged and positive. It’s been such a rewarding experience for me,” Berthiaume said.