When Jeffrey Tate, a senior engineering fellow in Raytheon company’s Systems Engineering Center, spoke to students about STEM recently he remembers getting blank stares.
To break the ice, he asked the students to pull out their cellphones.
“I knew they all had one,” he said.
Go to YouTube and type in two words: Matrix and Spoon, he told them.
“Up come a bunch of videos from the movie, The Matrix, and I told them which one to pick,” Tate continued.
Soon the room was filled with the sounds of Neo and Spoon boy on scores of cellphones and tablets.
“The reason you can do this is because of wireless technology, and microwave engineering plays a significant role in enabling wireless technology,” Tate explained.
For the widely regarded radio frequency (RF) space systems expert, it’s vital that he communicates the benefits of his career in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Twenty-five years ago, that classroom exercise wouldn’t have been possible, Tate remarked.
“Students may not be thinking in detail about how these systems work, but you [can] make a connection between mathematical and physical concepts studied in school and Facebook, Instagram, and things you carry in your pockets,” he explained.
Whenever he’s asked to speak to students, Tate makes it point to show what STEM truly entails by telling students how science and technology impact real-life.
After earning both a bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering at Michigan State, Tate headed east to Ithaca, New York, for a Ph. D. in electrical engineering.
At Cornell University, he pursued quantum mechanics and plasma physics and sought to understand how these principles were being applied in electrical engineering.
As Raytheon Engineering Fellow and Chief Scientist, Dr. Tate’s focus is high power radio frequency systems, satellite communications, and signal processing.
Dr. Tate also advocates paying success forward by supporting organizations such as The Hidden Genius Project, which trains Black male high school students in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities; and Black Girls Code, which aims to empower girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM fields through exposure to engaging computer science education.
Dr. Tate is the 2016 BEYA Scientist of the Year.