Queen of Cars

Alicia Boler Davis makes sure millions of cars get made

General Motors (GM) is one of the largest automakers in the world. Each year, the company builds more than 9 million cars and trucks worldwide. Alicia Boler Davis is in charge of making sure all those vehicles get made. Among other responsibilities, the engineer-turned-executive is in charge of manufacturing at GM’s headquarters in Detroit, Michigan.

Before she had this important job, Boler Davis started out as a tinkerer. As a child, she would take broken appliances apart and try to repair them. She wanted to figure out how they worked. That curiosity led her to study engineering in high school, college, and graduate school.

General Motors (GM) is one of the largest automakers in the world. Each year, the company builds more than 9 million cars and trucks worldwide. Alicia Boler Davis is in charge of making sure all those vehicles get made. Among other responsibilities, the engineer-turned-executive is in charge of manufacturing. She works at GM’s headquarters in Detroit, Michigan.

Before she had this important job, Boler Davis started out as a tinkerer. As a child, she would take broken appliances apart. Then she would try to repair them. She wanted to figure out how they worked. That curiosity led her to study engineering in high school. She went on to study it in college and graduate school.

John F. Martin for General Motors

At GM, Boler Davis began as an engineer designing cars. But she wanted to know more about the machines that help build cars and trucks at GM’s assembly plants. So she began working at one, quickly learning all she could. Soon after, she became the first African-American woman to run a manufacturing plant at GM. 

Company leaders were impressed with Boler Davis’s results. They asked her to lead a team that would improve how the company takes care of its customers. Boler Davis had to work hard and overcome many challenges as her responsibilities grew over the years. Now she oversees about 150,000 employees working in more than 120 factories and other facilities worldwide. 

Boler Davis is confident that others can pursue big goals and achieve them too. “If you dream big and find your passion, you can make the impossible happen,” she says.

Today, one of Boler Davis’s big dreams is to get more kids interested in engineering. She coached her son’s robotics team, which went on to a national competition. “Math and science offer great opportunities to build careers and fulfilling lives,” she says.

At GM, Boler Davis began as an engineer designing cars. But she wanted to know more about the machines that help build cars and trucks at GM’s assembly plants. So she began working at one, quickly learning all she could. Soon after, she became the first African-American woman to run a manufacturing plant at GM. 

Company leaders were impressed with Boler Davis’s results. They asked her to lead a team. The team would improve how the company takes care of its customers. Boler Davis had to work hard and overcome many challenges. Her responsibilities grew over the years. Now she oversees about 150,000 employees working in more than 120 factories and other facilities worldwide. 

Boler Davis is confident that others can pursue big goals. And they can achieve them too. “Dream big and find your passion. You can make the impossible happen,” she says.

Today, one of Boler Davis’s big dreams is to get more kids interested in engineering. She coached her son’s robotics team. They went on to a national competition. “Math and science offer great opportunities to build careers and fulfilling lives,” she says.

1. Divide the class into two groups.
Group 1 gets the following materials: 4 bottle caps, 2 short pencils, 1 can, and half of the clay. Group 2 gets the following materials: 4 CDs, 2 long pencils, 1 water bottle, and half of the clay.

2. Slide each pencil through the holes of your bottle or can. Make sure the pencils are straight.

3. Attach either the bottle caps or the CDs to the pencils with clay. You may need to put clay on both sides of the CDs to prevent them from sliding off the pencils.

4. Make a ramp. Set up the pile of books. Place the cardboard so one side rests on the books. The other side should rest on a flat surface.

5. Place a 1-foot-long piece of masking tape on the floor. One end of the tape should touch the cardboard ramp. The tape will be used to mark the distance your car travels on the line.

6. Predict how many inches your car will travel. Write down your prediction.

7. Group 1, place your car at the top of the board. Release it. Mark where the car stops. Measure and record the distance it traveled in fractions of an inch. Repeat this three times.

8. Group 2, do steps 6 and 7.

1. Divide the class into two groups. 
Group 1 gets the following materials: 4 bottle caps, 2 short pencils, 1 can, and half of the clay. Group 2 gets the following materials: 4 CDs, 2 long pencils, 1 water bottle, and half of the clay.

2. Slide each pencil through the holes of your bottle or can. Make sure the pencils are straight.

3. Attach either the bottle caps or the CDs to the pencils with clay. You may need to put clay on both sides of the CDs to prevent them from sliding off the pencils.

4. Make a ramp. Set up the pile of books. Place the cardboard so one side rests on the books. The other side should rest on a flat surface.

5. Place a 1-foot-long piece of masking tape on the floor. One end of the tape should touch the cardboard ramp. The tape will be used to mark the distance your car travels on the line.

6. Predict how many inches your car will travel. Write down your prediction.

7. Group 1, place your car at the top of the board. Release it. Mark where the car stops. Measure and record the distance it traveled in fractions of an inch. Repeat this three times.

8. Group 2, do steps 6 and 7.

1. Draw a line plot representing 12 inches. Label the line in half-inch intervals.

2. Plot your data on the line plot. Group 1, use x’s. Group 2, use o’s.

1. Draw a line plot representing 12 inches. Label the line in half-inch intervals.

2. Plot your data on the line plot. Group 1, use x’s. Group 2, use o’s.

1. What do you notice about the data on the line plot? Are the points spread out along the line, or are they grouped together?

2. Does your data support your prediction? Explain.

3. Compare your line plot with the other group’s. Do the line plots tell you which set of wheels make the car travel farther or straighter? Explain.

4. If you could make one change to the car’s design, what would it be?

1. What do you notice about the data on the line plot? Are the points spread out along the line, or are they grouped together?

2. Does your data support your prediction? Explain.

3. Compare your line plot with the other group’s. Do the line plots tell you which set of wheels make the car travel farther or straighter? Explain.

4. If you could make one change to the car’s design, what would it be?

Back to top
Read Aloud