Black Engineers Recruit Powerful Ally

black engineers (Image: iStock/Volhah)

 

In its ongoing effort to increase the number of black engineers by 2025, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) has partnered with the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES).

The two organizations are collaborating in outreach programs including NSBE’s Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) as well as some BMES events.

Additionally, both will focus on recruiting members, providing engineering education and professional advice, continued education for black engineers already in the field, and research and networking opportunities.

“BMES recognizes that to achieve its own goal to grow a diverse community of engineers, we need a strategy and an experienced and knowledgeable partner,” said BMES president Lori A. Setton via a press release.

She added that BMES is “delighted to work alongside influential professional organizations in engineering, to collectively engage, educate and graduate black engineers towards the 2025 goal.”

Currently, African Americans account for only 5.5 % of the nation’s engineers. Only a sliver of black engineers—2.71%—holds degrees in bioengineering.

The U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that bioengineering jobs will grow 23% from 2014 to 2024, at a much faster rate than other jobs. The need for bioengineers will increase due to advances in healthcare technology and a growing aging population. The average median wage for biomedical engineers was $86, 220 in 2015.

“NSBE is excited to have BMES as a partner to help reach our goal of graduating 10,000 black engineers annually starting in 2025,” said NSBE National Vice Chair Kristopher Rawls, a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia and a longtime member of BMES in a press release. “Particularly, we are excited to work together to increase BME representation within NSBE, which has been a personal goal of mine since I joined NSBE back in 2007. NSBE is also excited to work with BMES on engineering exposure outreach activities through avenues such as NSBE’s Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) as well as activities led by BMES.”

 

Tech Innovator of the Week: Terrence Southern, Robotics Engineer

Terrence Southern

Terence Southern is an influential robotics engineer that holds many awards and honors. He will be part of a distinguished panel discussing artificial intelligence and robotics at Black Enterprise’s TechConneXt Tech Summit.

He is as passionate about his work and research in robotics technology as he is about creating STEM opportunities for children in underserved communities—reflective of his own humble beginnings.

Southern is the lead Global Robotics and Automation engineer with GE Global Research. He is responsible for the automation strategy for all GE business units. For 15 years, he worked with a number of Fortune 500 companies, advancing their robotics technology and deploying nearly 2000 robots throughout his career.

A member of the National Society of Black Engineers, Southern has won many awards from peers in this field and is recognized as one of the leaders and influencers in the robotics space. In 2015, he was named the “Dallas 40 Under 40,” and he was presented with the Black Engineer of the Year Awards as “Most Promising Engineer in the Industry.”

Other honors include:

  • HBCU Distinguished Alumni Recognition (2011)
  • Engineering Society of Detroit’s Excellence in Leadership Award (2009)
  • U.S. FIRST Lego League Michigan Adult/Mentor Award (2008)
  • Black Engineer of the Year Award “Modern Day Technology Leader” (2007)

Additionally, Southern is the CEO and chief consultant of HarozTec, where he consults, mentors, and manages entities in providing educational strategic planning, project management, and research solutions.

Despite a busy professional life, Southern makes time to pay it forward. He founded Illuminate S.T.E.M. to advance future workforce opportunities for K-12 students in related areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, through interactive curriculum and competitive, project-based learning concepts. He is constantly looking for new means by which to stimulate young minds and to cultivate a generation of leaders in robotics and automation.

A native of Detroit, Southern is a proud father to two-year-old daughter Zorah. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Tennessee State University College of Engineering.

Tech Innovator of the Week: Terrence Southern, Robotics Engineer

Terrence Southern

Terence Southern is an influential robotics engineer that holds many awards and honors. He will be part of a distinguished panel discussing artificial intelligence and robotics at Black Enterprise’s TechConneXt Tech Summit.

He is as passionate about his work and research in robotics technology as he is about creating STEM opportunities for children in underserved communities—reflective of his own humble beginnings.

Southern is the lead Global Robotics and Automation engineer with GE Global Research. He is responsible for the automation strategy for all GE business units. For 15 years, he worked with a number of Fortune 500 companies, advancing their robotics technology and deploying nearly 2000 robots throughout his career.

A member of the National Society of Black Engineers, Southern has won many awards from peers in this field and is recognized as one of the leaders and influencers in the robotics space. In 2015, he was named the “Dallas 40 Under 40,” and he was presented with the Black Engineer of the Year Awards as “Most Promising Engineer in the Industry.”

Other honors include:

  • HBCU Distinguished Alumni Recognition (2011)
  • Engineering Society of Detroit’s Excellence in Leadership Award (2009)
  • U.S. FIRST Lego League Michigan Adult/Mentor Award (2008)
  • Black Engineer of the Year Award “Modern Day Technology Leader” (2007)

Additionally, Southern is the CEO and chief consultant of HarozTec, where he consults, mentors, and manages entities in providing educational strategic planning, project management, and research solutions.

Despite a busy professional life, Southern makes time to pay it forward. He founded Illuminate S.T.E.M. to advance future workforce opportunities for K-12 students in related areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, through interactive curriculum and competitive, project-based learning concepts. He is constantly looking for new means by which to stimulate young minds and to cultivate a generation of leaders in robotics and automation.

A native of Detroit, Southern is a proud father to two-year-old daughter Zorah. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Tennessee State University College of Engineering.

Tech Innovator of the Week: Laura Teclemariam, Software Engineer

Teclamariam

Laura Teclemariam is a rarity in California’s Bay Area, and it’s not just because she is an African American female software engineer. She was actually born and bred in the Bay Area, too.

“I grew up in the Bay Area long before it was called Silicon Valley,” she says. “I’m one of the few natives here. Everyone is an import!”

Teclemariam, who currently works as senior product manager for gaming and entertainment giant, EA, has also been in the tech field before there was so much focus on diversity in tech. Fascinated by tech gadgets since she was a kid, Teclemariam graduated with a degree in electrical engineering/computer science from the University of California, Irvine.

tcs-logo

Talking Tech

 

Teclemariam jumps right into tech-talk, discussing some of the work she does at EA, “There are so many devices. We are moving into a period of time where people are overloaded with data.”

“With the phenomena of big data and [the] cloud, companies need to figure out how to streamline all that data, so users and customers don’t feel that overload stress,” she says.

Teclemariam then gives an example, citing EA FIFA and Madden gamers, “If you love FIFA or Madden, you are going to download Madden mobile, play it on PlayStation or Xbox, and you’re going to watch videos on YouTube. All of that info can be a lot, and it can consume a lot of time.”

To manage all of that data, EA takes an approach similar to Amazon. “Amazon has a relationship with me. When I press what I want to view or put it in my shopping cart, when I am at work on my desktop or phone, Amazon will remind me, ‘You have this dress in your shopping cart.’ Then it will tell me, ‘By the way, there are two other dresses you may like,’” she says.

That is very similar to what she and her team build out at EA, “[It’s] building conversations with our players, and how we can manage that data overload. What we are doing is really understanding behavioral science, and managing and targeting our players, [and] they end up saying, ‘I feel like I really have a relationship with EA.’”

Teclemariam can easily expound on artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, and other technical matters. Although she works for EA, she herself is not a hardcore gamer. However, she did say, “My daughters play Plants Versus Zombies with me.”

Silicon Valley Living

 

Because she is from and currently lives in the Silicon Valley region, Teclemariam has technology embedded in all aspects of her world, even in her home life. She and her husband, who is also an African American engineer, have invested in Nest. “We have our thermostats and security systems all programmed,” she says, ticking off other tech that the couple has at home.

In addition to tech, she is very committed to furthering diversity in the industry. “I am on the board of our new employee diversity group,” she explains. “I do feel like one of the few [African American and female] pioneers being born and raised here. I take responsibility to pave the way for other young girls and boys of color, [to] let them know there are role models and resources for them to continue down the same path.”

Meet Software Engineer Derek Peterson, VP, Intelligent Product Solutions

Derek Peterson

Derek Peterson is the VP of software and business development at Intelligent Product Solutions (IPS) and is an expert in software engineering. Currently, he focuses on creating and executing enterprise software services and products.

Peterson has created software products that are deployed on more than 100,000 devices worldwide. Prior to his position at IPS, he was Senior Director of engineering at Symbol Technologies, where he created and implemented the Symbol (Motorola) Software Test and Validation department and procedures. He also holds Bachelor of Science degrees in computer science and applied math from SUNY Stony Brook.

Black Enterprise sat down to interview the accomplished software engineering expert:

BE: What sparked your interest in technology?

Derek Peterson: I was going to go to Stony Brook to be a doctor. I was told in high school that I should take a programming class. I took a fortran and basic class—this was in ’83. People like Kurtis Blow and Run DMC were around. I made a breakdancing application in ‘83, and I was in the town newspaper–it had characters breakdancing. I was hooked.

I created a product for security for public libraries. Windows 3.1 was coming out [at the time] . People would monopolize [library] computers; there were fist fights. My product managed time control and print–when you [went] to print it charged you.

BE: What does IPS do, and what are you working on there?

DP: IPS is a full service product design firm. You come in with any idea you can think of—[from] wearables to full body scans—and we can do that. We make it.  We’re an “under one roof team,” so we have software engineers, mechanical engineers, industrial designers—all disciplines

[We] did a project for Pepsi, for Verizon. Right now, I am doing a project for Google; we are doing manufacturing in Taipei.

BE: When you were pursuing your degree, was there talk about diversity in STEM then?

DP: No, I never really heard talk about diversity then. It wasn’t like nowadays.

BE: What, in your opinion, is the biggest roadblock for more people of color in acquiring a STEM education and careers in technology and engineering?

DP: I think knowledge is power. They don’t think it’s attainable. Everyone is always thinking, “I’m going to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant…” no one really throws in engineering and all that math and science. It’s not glamorous per se, but in my field and career, I’ve traveled the world.

It’s awareness, you need the awareness.

 

 

Nerd Power: From Engineers to Entrepreneurs

engineers

Engineers Robert F. Smith, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Larry Page—all have something in common—besides being exceedingly wealthy. They started their own companies.

In the new startup economy, engineers and others in “geeky” fields are more inclined than ever to venture out on their own, even without previous business experience. Some, as those mentioned above, do extraordinarily well, but engineers considering the transition should be aware of a few challenges.

 

Engineers as “Product People”

“Many of the developers I know are ‘product people’,” says Evan Rose, founder of Rose Digital, a minority-owned digital agency, and a web/mobile applications developer. “When you’re a person who is driven to create, you have the skills to [create], and the cost of launching a company is so low, it creates the perfect conditions for entrepreneurship.”

Some engineers are motivated to create their own startups after disappointment working at established companies. “After spending 10 years in engineering roles, I began to grow discontented with management,” says Todd Rhoad, managing director of BT Consulting, an Atlanta-based career consulting firm; a partner at Peachtree Recovery Services and electrical engineer.

 

Challenges

As a career consultant, Rhoad offers advice for engineers who wish to start their own business ventures. “Running your own company will present numerous issues to solve every single day,” he cautions. “You have to develop your business and marketing plan; something engineers aren’t really great at.”

 

Taking the First Steps

Yet, some engineers remain hesitant to go solo. The reasons may be the same as for anyone else who is reluctant to open a business—lack of exposure and lack of capital.

Talitha Hampton, a chemical engineer and president of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), says, “It’s not common for you to see a chemical engineer as an entrepreneur. When I look at the ingredients of current entrepreneurs, they have a strong network, they have access to capital; and an understanding of tax benefits and tax law,” says Hampton.

For minorities, many who grow up in underprivileged communities, if you, for instance, go to school, become an engineer, and “get a job at DuPont— you made it,” Hampton says.

 

Black Engineers Gather At This Major Leadership Conference Every Year

black engineers

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is holding its annual National Leadership Conference on June 9-12 at the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The conference provides NSBE’s volunteer officers leadership training and development in other skills, such as accounting, fundraising, marketing, and program development.

The event will also recognize some extraordinary achievements in STEM by people of color.

One of these achievements is the appointment of the first African American to ever head the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, Alec D. Gallimore.

Gallimore is a Ph.D. as well as associate dean for academic affairs, and a professor of engineering. He will be among a handful of African Americans to serve as deans of engineering at predominately white colleges and universities in the United States.

“When I received the invitation to address student leaders of NSBE, I knew I could not pass up the opportunity,” he said. “I am humbled and energized to inspire the future engineers who will contribute to achieving NSBE’s all-important aspirational goal.”

The NSBE’s new National Chair, Matthew Nelson, is also being recognized for creating a new agenda for the NSBE next year and for signing a contract to bring the NSBE Annual Convention to his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, in 2019. Hosting the conference in Detroit will create additional revenue for the city and expose its constituents to more than 12,000 aspiring and current black engineers.

The primary purpose of the NSBE is to increase the number of African American engineering school graduates from an estimated 3,500 annually to 10,000 per year by 2025.

NSBE’s executive director Karl W. Reid says that seeing people to whom you can relate to, succeed in a chosen area of study or endeavor significantly increases one’s confidence in achievement.

“As a country, we need to increase math proficiency rates at the 4th grade, 8th grade, and collegiate levels, especially for African Americans, as these rates are indicators for success in attaining engineering degrees,” says Dr. Reid. “And we also need to have many more African American youth able to envision engineering as a career for themselves. NSBE is working to make that possible.”

Meet the Engineer with a Revolutionary Idea for ‘Smart’ Plants

Aja Atwood is the co-founder of everblume, LLC. It’s a startup that is getting ready to launch a product that is destined to disrupt the horticultural industry.

[Related: Slack Engineer Duretti Hirpa on Why Diversity in Tech Matters]

The product is called everblume. It’s a turnkey, automated smart appliance designed to help consumers grow and cultivate medicinal plants, produce and flowers, even from a small apartment.

Atwood co-founded everblume last year with Michael Morgan, who is the CEO. She is the CTO; a fitting title, since Atwood has also been a mechanical engineer for over 13 years. The company is committed to creating solutions that support customers who advocate the benefits of home cultivation.

“I’ve worked with the leading defense system companies,” Atwood said to BlackEnterprise.com.

She has helped develop satellites for naval ships and also did some work with medical device companies. However, she has worked in a diverse range of organizations with a variety of responsibilities, including risk management, engineering consulting, and organizational management. A large portion of Atwood’s engineering career has been helping manufacturing plants protect themselves from fire and natural disaster.

“I go to their plants, see their processes: [For example] how do you replace a piece of equipment if there is a fire or a hurricane? What can we do to continue your business?”

Atwood, who holds a B.S in mechanical engineering from Northeastern University, is a serial entrepreneur. She launched her first venture, a trading software company in 2013.

Everblume is a futuristic way to grow plants, no matter what natural environmental conditions the plants require. The scientifically-designed sealed growing box automatically adjusts humidity, soil PH balance and light depending on the type of plant. Customers can also manually adjust these settings.

Using the mobile app, everblume provides easy monitoring, so that you can keep tabs on all elements of your growth. The app will alert when levels are off; measure progress; emails monthly reports and lets users make modifications to the everblume box’s settings. Atwood and her team are slated to launch a Kickstarter campaign for everblume in September.

“Right now we are conducting market research and doing beta testing,” says Atwood.

They are also trying to figure out the best way to manufacture the product in the U.S.

“We definitely want to assemble in the U.S. and manufacture [here] as much as possible. We’re focusing on the northeast, trying to find the best pricing,” says Atwood.

 

 

Q&A With Rob McConnell, Designer at Toyota

Rob McConnell is the manager of exterior and lighting development as part of the design team at the Toyota Technical Center in Michigan.

[Related:[WATCH] BLACK TRAVEL EXPERTS PARTNER WITH TOYOTA FOR INSPIRING VIDEO SERIES]

He played a significant role in the design of the Avalon, and BlackEnterprise.com interviewed him back then. Now, he is lending his talents to designing Toyota vehicles that are future forward; those built with high-tech features including autonomous driving and integration with mobile devices.

BlackEnterprise.com sat down with McConnell for an exclusive interview about the automotive industry. McConnell has a mechanical engineering degree and has been with Toyota for 18 years.

BlackEnterprise.com: How did you end up designing cars? What’s your background?

McConnell: I didn’t know I wanted to work in the auto industry until college. I’m originally from Lansing, Michigan. I started working at Toyota out of college. The things you do as a child [that] you are interested in influences your career choice. I liked to build: Lincoln Logs; Hot Wheels.

How much crossover is there between designing and engineering with auto design? Is what you do more art or science?

It’s a collaboration of both. We have a very deep and detailed interactive relationship between the designer element and engineering in the styling and design of the vehicle.

How is Toyota differentiating itself from other automakers in design?

Really, what’s critical to us is understanding the voice of the customer, paying attention to that detail, and then infusing that into our development and design.

We still see so few people of color in the boardrooms of auto companies and owning car dealerships. What does the industry need to do to further diversity efforts?

STEM is a great vehicle. I think it really starts with being proactive as opposed to reactive. In Toyota, in other OEMs, [you] really have to go out and showcase that the opportunity exists. What I try to do to move forward is going out and showcasing the visibility and the opportunity that exists for minorities and people of diverse backgrounds. Engineering is possible; engineering in the automotive industry is possible; success in that is possible.

Our president showcases the opportunities that now exist. You can have a deeper tone to your skin and be president of the country, which is something that is greatly exciting and that trickles all the way down to manufacturing, automotive manufacturing, production, and development.

So there’s great opportunity. It’s our job to expose that.

Northrop Grumman Gives $2 Million Grant to National Society of Black Engineers

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) received a $2 million grant from the Northrop Grumman Foundation.

[Related: Nearly 40% of Minority Engineers in Tech Say They’ve Experienced Bias in the Workplace]

The grants were presented last week to NBSE’s executive board by executives from both Northrop Grumman and the Northrop Grumman Foundation at NBSE’s recent annual convention in Boston. They will be used toward a three-year program through a partnership with HBCUs in an effort to expand the engineering workforce.

“Northrop Grumman and the Northrop Grumman Foundation are committed to helping improve science, technology, engineering, and math [STEM] education to ensure a future workforce that can protect our nation and maintain our global leadership,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, Northrop Grumman vice president, global corporate responsibility and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation.

“Our partnership with NBSE will help us achieve that goal and develop the pipeline of diverse talent that is so important to our company and our society’s future.”

The program, officially named the Northrop Grumman Corporation/NBSE Integrated Pipeline Program, provides 72 engineering students with $8,000 in scholarship grants. Those students will also receive internships at Northup Grumman as well as year-round academic and career development support.

There are three HBCUs partnering with the program: Florida A&M University, Howard University, and North Carolina State A&T University. Each will receive grants, technical assistance, and a variety of NBSE programs, all with the goal of increasing the number of engineering graduates.

The first 24 scholarship recipients will be selected in December and will take part in the program’s kickoff summit meeting in March 2017 at the NBSE’s 43rd Annual Convention in Kansas City, Mo.

“Our sincere thanks to the Northrop Grumman Foundation for this generous investment in our mission,” said Neville Green, NSBE national chair. “The student leadership of NSBE is excited about this program’s potential to move us toward the goals of our strategic plan and support HBCUs in the process. Initiatives such as this, with strong strategic partners, will be critical as we seek to increase the number of African American bachelor’s degree recipients in engineering from 3,500 to 10,000 annually over the next nine years.”

Northrop Grumman is an aerospace and defense technology company. Last year, the Pentagon awarded the company a $21.4 billion contract to build next-generation long-range strike bomber aircraft. It is one of the largest defense contractors globally.