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Tollie Strode, Jr., a senior project officer at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), was presented with the Gen. Lester L. Lyles Legacy award at the HBCU Engineering Deans Breakfast. The award recognizes engineering excellence.

“This award represents a return on investment to the many people that poured into me their confidence, trust, and support during my career that spans more than 40 years. I am truly grateful,” Strode said.

Currently, as SAIC team lead for experimentation with autonomous systems, Strode supports the U.S. Army’s Maneuver Battle Lab, in engineering programs such as drones, ground robotics, and soldier-borne sensors.

Below are excerpts from an interview he gave USBE magazine on inspiration, mentoring, and career guidance in robotics and AI.

“As I write this note, I’m participating in a swarming mission designed to enable one operator to employ multiple unmanned systems to complete tactical tasks that address unit requirements. I’m working with swarms comprised of drones in this event. This body of work and experiences enables me to be a mentor to young people considering the robotics, autonomy, and artificial intelligence (AI) fields.”

Strode was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant upon graduation from the U.S. Military Academy. Prior to joining SAIC, he worked in manufacturing management with Procter and Gamble.

“My experience at West Point caused me to embrace engineering. At the Academy, passing a swimming test is a requirement for graduation. Year 1, I joined an organization called the ‘Rock Squad.’ I floated like a rock. By graduation time, I passed all parts of the test. Perseverance? Yes! But I probably ingested enough chlorine during the 4-year journey to lower an Olympic-sized pool’s water level by an inch.

“Honorable mention goes to my experience with Procter and Gamble. I learned to speak the language of business, leveraging the analytical acumen that I’ve applied in all phases and positions during my career.

“I’m nearing retirement and plan to continue in the robotics field as a teacher and mentor. I hope to hand off a better world to my son and grandchildren. My father, Tollie Strode, Sr.inculcated me with a type of love and strength that endures. My uncle Woody Strode had a huge influence. He is the actor that served in classic roles such as Sergeant Rutledge.

“I quietly work in STEM initiatives that impact people in positive ways. I’ve served my community as an advocate for government responsibility,” he said.

During the BEYA Conference, 12 other SAIC employees were recognized for their accomplishments as Science Spectrum Trailblazers and Modern-Day Technology Leaders.

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