The STEM fields are becoming exponentially more important, practical, and sophisticated in our rapidly modernizing world. The keys to unearthing this potential lie in the hands of the youth and more importantly, those who may be overlooked.
This past March, hundreds of our nation’s brightest minds, associated with the National Society of Black Engineers, descended on the city of Pittsburgh to showcase the many distinguished qualities of a young engineer. The Chamblee faction of NSBE was a willing participant in the gathering and sent 20 club members, who eagerly wished to exemplify their engineering prowess.
“I had always wanted to get involved with the club. A club that was about and for black students was enticing,” said NSBE newcomer Robert Felton. “I had initially heard about the organization through my aunt who was also in NSBE, and I knew it would be exciting to work with engineering projects that I had never been exposed to before.”
The trip which spanned five days, was more than just a quick weekend getaway, but rather brought Chamblee students as close to the engineering community as possible through. Speeches and competitions exposed ambitious young minds to many technological opportunities. Club president and hopeful future engineer, Jasmine Page, a two year NSBE veteran and experienced member of the organization, sees only an upside to getting out and interacting with other young engineers.
“We got to compete in many exciting events like vex robotics, a math competition, Kid Wind, which involved studying alternative energy sources, 1080, which was RC car racing, and we also got to sit in on different conferences, where we could hear executives speak at job fairs,” said Page.
Not only could participants directly participate in the competitions, but they were surrounded by many professionals from the field, looking to transfer wisdom and relay experience.
“This allowed people to network with professionals, collegiate students, and those in the industry. But overall it helps you grow as a person because you are able to reach out to others and explore the skills you have learned at school and in the club,” said Page.
Frontlining Chamblee’s abilities at the convention was the standout performance by the participants of the Kid Wind event, developing a wind turbine to successfully generate wind energy. Club secretary, Sydney Britton, a proud member of the turbine construction team who took home first place, was ecstatic with their performance and the set up of the events.
“What was important is that we were not just judged based on how much voltage was produced, but also on how good our presentation was, the originality of our design, and our work process,” said Britton. “We did well and it felt really good to be recognized.”
She began to realize that this club was more than just building a machine in front of judges, but like the entirety of NSBE’s mission, is about opening doors for future success, and proving your abilities.
“After we won first place a lot of advisors from different schools across the country started talking to us, and that’s how we found out that we could actually go to the Kid Wind national competition in Chicago, which would definitely put you in contact with other black professionals in your field,” said Britton.
When success brings a plethora of new opportunities, as in this case, an organization such as NSBE provides so much more than a trophy. Chamblee’s engineering instructor and club sponsor, Lucretia Gant, is even more passionate about her student’s exposure and self-realization than she is about any awards.
“These students continue to amaze me even though I can be hard on them, and every year the way the perform and work, they show me that they really want this club,” said Gant. “I didn’t know how well we would do this year, but kids who had never even built a robot before went into the competition and actually built one. Whether we win or not, there is always a student who never saw themselves doing something, but now says ‘Wow, I could definitely see myself doing that.’”