Building up future engineers with NSBE and Avanade
- Posted on September 16, 2019
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
I was like every other engineering freshman at The University of Texas at Austin, where we were told to look at the person on our left and then the person on our right. This would be followed by, “One of those two will no longer be here by the end of the year.” This was typical for college, but I also soon realized that the number of Blacks or African Americans (3 percent of the school’s population at the time) that stayed in the college of engineering by the end of the year would be even significantly less.
Within my first week of college, I was quickly scooped up and brought into UT's chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). This organization was founded in 1975 at Purdue University because very few Blacks were graduating with engineering degrees at all schools in North America. With the support of NSBE, I had an additional family who was dedicated to ensuring I graduate. In my entire life, I have never encountered another organization so focused on service – even the Dean of Engineering would boast that you can pick any member of the chapter and they could quickly cite the mission. NSBE's mission is "To increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community." I have been working toward that mission ever since.
After college, I moved back to Houston and decided to charter a NSBE Jr. chapter. Because of all of my community service during college, I had realized that many underrepresented minorities would not even consider STEM fields. So in 2009, the South Houston NSBE Jr. Chapter was chartered and eventually opened up to serve first through 12th grade students from all around the Greater Houston area. Our goal was to expose youth to STEM through hands on exploration and exposure to collegiate and alumni engineers. I am now going into my 11th year as the director, and I still love the impact NSBE makes on kids. From the moment kids join as official members, they will tell you that they will be an engineer. Over the years, I have found that the majority of my students stick with that goal.
Along with being the director of the South Houston NSBE Jr. Chapter, I also coach many STEM competitions – our biggest one is the annual NASCAR TEN80 Challenge competition. We participated in their Racing Challenge, which allows students to contribute to their challenge through race (mechanical/aerodynamic) engineering, coding and automation, design and fabrication, graphic design, marketing, community outreach and data-driven design projects that ask students to follow their own interests (as long as they follow good investigation practices).
Unlike others, my chapter is not sponsored by a school, which would typically provide meeting space and funding. But in my time with Avanade, I’ve learned this company is always ready to support a good cause. Avanade was a supporter of two of our competing teams, one middle school and one high school. One area of support was from the local Houston office, where HR consultant Lucy Moodley helped us bring the students into the office to get feedback on their technical presentations, elevator pitches and data-driven-design reports. Also supporting the group was Kevin Pham from the Infrastructure TC and member of Avanade’s Professional Asian Networking Group (PANG) and Arthur Rucker, who is the Southwest Regional Champion of our INSPIRE ERG. Both were key in providing the feedback that led to five winning trophies and becoming 1st Place Overall Grand Champions at the NSBE National Championship in Detroit this past March. The teams won two more trophies at the International Finals at Texas A&M in April.
The most rewarding part of these experiences is still being able to align myself with NBSE’s mission of increasing the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community. To that end, I am thrilled that one of our competing graduating seniors, Zachary, will be attending the University of Texas Arlington for Mechanical Engineering – where he wants to continue with the college’s mechanical racing program – and another graduating senior, Madison, will be attending Texas Tech University for Environmental Engineering.
From the donation of space, snacks, materials and time ... every little piece helps. I’m so grateful to Avanade for supporting NSBE in building the pipeline of future engineers!