• Christopher Banks of Baton Rouge, La., right, examines the workings of a disposable camera under the watchful eye of mechanical engineering Professor Martin Culpepper, during a 'Take-Apart Learning' workshop for high school students held March 24. The workshop was part of "Engineering at MIT is Fun Day," an event hosted in association with the National Society of Black Engineers convention.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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  • Student Jeremy Gilmore of Baton Rouge, La., quickly discovers how a disposable camera works during 'Engineering at MIT is Fun Day.'

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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MIT builds bridges to black engineers

Helps make NSBE convention a success

Thousands of people from across the country flocked to Boston last week for the 31st annual National Society of Black Engineers Convention. Among the more than 10,000 conference attendees packed into Hynes Convention Center were dozens of MIT students, alumni, faculty and staff who dedicated their time and energy to the five-day event, which was themed "Empowering the World���One Engineer at a Time."

As its mission statement reads, NSBE's purpose is "to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community." During the event that ran from March 23 through March 27, the society held true to its goals, offering an endless list of professional workshops, collegiate seminars and networking opportunities for every level of engineer from technical professionals to soon-to-be college graduates to current high school students.

With so many past, present and future black engineers gathered in one place, MIT wanted to exhibit a strong presence at the conference being held just across the river.

"We wanted to seize this opportunity," said Irene Miller, Manager of Faculty Diversity Search, School of Engineering. "The Institute wants to develop connections that will bring more blacks through the pipeline to study, to teach and to contribute to MIT in various roles. This conference gave us the chance to do that."

Showing their dedication to this goal, faculty, staff and students from more than 20 departments across the Institute worked together for months to prepare for the conference. While separate departments at MIT have participated in past NSBE conferences, this year's event marked the first time so many departments worked together to create a large, unified presence. "Concerted, collaborative recruitment efforts like this are bound to have positive impact on MIT's diversity as engineers in training think about where to pursue the next degree," said Dean for Graduate Students Isaac Colbert after NSBE wrapped up this weekend.

The result of the collaboration was a host of events that introduced the opportunities at MIT to thousands of future engineers. For high school students, MIT sponsored a day-long experience in conjunction with NSBE entitled "Engineering at MIT is Fun." The students came to campus to participate in design workshops that had them working with everything from electric screwdrivers to LEGOS. MIT also provided them with admissions and career services seminars, as well as campus tours.

College and graduate students were introduced to the opportunities open to them at MIT through sessions and panels run by the Institute's faculty and staff. On Thursday, Colbert and Materials Science Professor Sam Allen spoke to a packed house in a session entitled "Grad School 201." Debra Woog McGinty from the Leaders for Manufacturing Program participated in an Engineering and Business Education Panel on Friday, and on Saturday, the director of the Engineering Systems Division, Professor Daniel Hastings, spoke on "Diversity, Leadership and the Future of Engineering Education."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 30, 2005 (download PDF).

Topics: National relations and service, Special events and guest speakers


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