Engineering Students Win Award

Community outreach and professional development propel UM’s NSBE chapter to national award.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 18, 2013) — When Bianca Williams served as president of the University of Miami’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) last year, she made sure she didn’t forget about youngsters who aspire to become engineers but are unaware of the educational path they must take en-route to achieving their goals.

So she and a few other chapter members visited a community center in South Miami, speaking with kids about UM’s College of Engineering and the academic programs it offers.

Outreach efforts such as that, coupled with a lecture series that brought in professional African-American engineers to speak with UM students, helped Williams and her 22 chapter members win NSBE’s 2013 National Small Chapter of the Year award.

The honor is based on the chapter’s execution of programs in academic excellence, community outreach, professional development, and membership retention.

“As a chapter, we recognized that we could supplement the programs on campus to increase minority engineering exposure, and we made it happen,” said Williams, an industrial engineering major who will work at Colgate Palmolive when she graduates in May.

She noted that UM’s NSBE chapter also hosted a forum at which faculty and students discussed the pros and cons of enrolling in grad school as opposed to entering the workforce immediately after graduation.

Cruzing in style: NSBE chapter officers pose next to a Chevy Cruze. Over the summer, the students drove models of the diesel-powered vehicle from Ohio to Michigan, visiting GM plants and engineering facilities along the way.

“The determination and focus of our chapter under pressure stood out to the national committee when they bestowed this prestigious award on us,” said current UM NSBE President Amanda Adams, noting that the UM chapter faced budget problems that its members eventually solved.

In recognition of their award, General Motors invited Williams and Adams, as well as NSBE chapter leaders from two other universities, to visit five of the company’s plants over the summer for an immersion into the engineering of the Chevrolet Cruze, a turbo-diesel powered vehicle that can travel more than 700 miles on a single tank of fuel. With a Chevy rep riding along, Williams and Adams took turns driving a Cruze to the different plants in Ohio and Michigan.

At the GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, “we saw firsthand how a vehicle goes from basically being sheet metal to becoming a full car,” said Williams. And at the Milford Proving Ground in Michigan, the students saw plans for a new GM prototype and rode in a test car to see how it performed under different roadway conditions.

“We not only gained insight into the manufacturing aspects of engineering, but also national recognition for our hardworking chapter,” said Adams.

The chapter has ambitious plans for this academic year. It is working with the Touching Miami with Love community center in Overtown to bring in 30 middle and high school students for a tour of UM’s College of Engineering labs and a bridge building contest that will test the youngsters’ engineering prowess.

Study halls for UM students taking STEM courses and visits to Miami-Dade County schools to talk with students about engineering careers are also planned.

Robert Jones can be reached at 305-284-1615.

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Officers of NSBE’s 2012-13 National Chapters of the Year, including the University of Miami’s Amanda Adams (wearing green blazer) and Bianca Williams (in black shirt and green pants) pose beside an engine at the GM Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Pontiac, Michigan.

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