For Litchfield Clement, engineering is in the blood. It’s like a DNA-transmitted gift handed down from one generation to the next – and it’s a gift he is willing to share.
Clement’s love of engineering is a passion that he feels practically compelled to share, especially with the children. As a longtime participant in a youth mentoring program at Tyrone Elementary School in Harper Woods, Clement has used his specially allotted time after school to entice the youngsters with the idea of working with, and learning about, cars. But from there, he launches their curiosity into orbit by exposing them to a field of study with the possibility of transforming their entire lives.
“I do a lot through my engineering model building classes,” he said. “Everybody always has a favorite car. …I want them to come up with their own designs…they really love working with clay.”
But Clement takes his students, ages 9-12 years old, far beyond working with clay. He believes in stretching their capabilities to the limit.
“I go over thermodynamics and heat transfer. I know they’re kids so I’m not trying to overload them. I give them a definition of it, and I give them an example of it.”
Clement has also worked to expose his students to other professions and trades as well, realizing that engineering is only one path that, although rewarding to him personally, may not be the path for others.
“Even though my emphasis is strongly engineering, I try to bring in some other people as well to give them an overall perspective. I’ve had over a dozen people come and speak to them” such as a master plumber, a master chef, and others.
“I’m hoping, out of the kids that I’ve touched, I’d say maybe over 1,000 since I’ve been here, I’m hoping that at least 20 wind up becoming engineers. I’m hoping. Some form or fashion.”
Clement, a mechanical engineer by profession, teaches his engineering model building class after school on Tuesdays. It is a youth mentoring program that he has participated in for the past five years, and that he says he has found to be extremely rewarding.
“My whole idea is I want to inspire as many people as I can, especially kids. That’s why I took the job. Young kids, their minds, you can mold them. And that’s what my father did for me.
“My father was an electrical mechanical engineer/mechanic. Master mechanic. He emigrated from Central America. Panama. My uncle was an architect/carpenter. He was responsible for some of those sidewalks in Hamtramck. And also for some of the viaducts on Belle Isle.”
But that’s not all.
“My uncle was a chemical engineer. He was the first black graduate of Lawrence Tech in 1938 I believe. Wolford Clement (sp?) ..He worked for United Tech Arsenal for over 30 years. So it’s kind of like a legacy of engineers because they understood that engineers build the world. And you can see where we are now with infrastructure, railroads, all over the world.”
For Clement, his students are the next generation with the task of rebuilding the world. And if he has anything to say about it, that world will be in good and qualified hands.
“This job has definitely been rewarding …so I’m pleased. I’m fulfilled as a human being with this job. It’s been one of the best jobs I’ve had because it’s been inspiring. I’m pushing imagination, thinking outside the box. …That’s my main aim is to strike their curiosity.”