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As the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) STEM Conference begins its 100-day countdown to the 36th annual event, excitement is building on STEM City USA, a functional metaverse platform built by Career Communications Group (CCG), publisher of US Black Engineer magazine and producer of the BEYA STEM Conference.


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Following the recent announcement of the 2022 Black Engineer of the Year, STEM City USA hosted a welcome ceremony for the newest member of the club of Black Engineers of the Year on Saturday, October 30. Next February, Ted Colbert, president and CEO of Boeing Global Services, will receive the highest honor in the long-running BEYA program.

The Black Engineer of the Year Award recognizes a public or private sector leader, who is navigating business challenges and expanding African Americans’ opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“We’re making history on several levels,” said Tyrone Taborn, Career Communications Group (CCG) publisher, co-founder of BEYA, and chief executive of STEM City USA. “We (recently) heard from Lanny Smoot, who has 102 inventions as the lead engineer for Disney. He won the Most Promising Engineer Award at the first Black Engineer of the Year Awards.  But this is the first time we have invited all the living BEYA winners, Scientists of the Year, and Lifetime Achievement awardees. There will be many more opportunities now that we have STEM City USA.”

Colbert will be Boeing’s third recipient of the Black Engineer of the Year Award at the 36th annual BEYA STEM Conference in Washington, D.C., on February 17, 2022. Other Boeing engineers who have received the top award include Arlington “Art” Carter, who retired as vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Missile Systems Division in 1998; and Walt W. Braithwaite, a Jamaican-born American engineer who played an integral role in introducing and using CAD/CAM and IGES technology at Boeing, and in 2000 was named as Boeing’s President of Boeing Africa.

‘Making history on several levels’

Braithwaite said part of the objective of the BEYA organization was to have role models. “To have examples that people could aspire to,” Braithwaite added. “(Ted Colbert) sat in the audience and aspired to be on the (BEYA) stage, so the program is working well, the objectives are being met. I had a great time as a Black Engineer in 1995.”

Career Communications Group, Inc. (CCG) was founded in 1985 to promote significant achievement in STEM. In addition, CCG works with partner organizations to help partners expand the impact of their diversity strategies and programs. Since 1986, CCG has produced the BEYA STEM Conference each February during Black History Month.

“Congratulations to Ted,” said Eugene M. DeLoatch, co-founder of the BEYA STEM Conference. The veteran educator retired from Morgan State University’s School of Engineering as dean emeritus in 2017. He was named the 2017 Black Engineer of the Year at the BEYA STEM Conference in Washington, D.C. The BEYA Alumni Association named him the association’s national chairman later that year.

“It looks like what we envisioned from day one,” he said. “As I read through (the nomination package), one thing struck me from (Ted’s) words, that he, at one point, sat in an audience and said I’m going to be up there one day. When we look back thirty-six or so years, that’s what we all wanted. ”

DeLoatch served on the Howard University faculty for 24 years, first as a professor of engineering, then as chair of the electrical engineering department. He was recruited to Morgan State University in 1984 to launch the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. School of Engineering as the school’s inaugural dean. During his 33 years at the helm there, he is credited with producing more Black engineers than any other person in the history of U.S. higher education.

“It’s going to be fun,” added Lydia Thomas, Ph.D., who built her STEM career in federal contracting. Thomas was named Black Engineer of the Year at the 17th annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards. She is an emeritus member of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (Associate Fellow), American Society of Toxicology, National Defense Industrial Association, and the International Women’s Forum. Before Noblis, Dr. Thomas was with The MITRE Corporation from 1973 to 1996. At MITRE, she held a series of technical and management positions, spanning the areas of energy, environment, health, and communications systems.

Reminiscing on the BEYA event of 2003, she said it was a lot of fun, and this time, we will get to watch Ted Colbert up on that stage.

The 2020 Black Engineer of the Year said when he looked back on 34 years of service to the nation as a Soldier, BEYA is right up there in terms of experiences. “Coming to BEYA and attending events for more than a decade, I had no idea of the long-lasting impact,” said former Army Chief Information Officer (CIO) and recently retired Army Lieutenant General Bruce T. Crawford.

Reflecting on his experience as Black Engineer of the Year, Crawford said that while he was on the BEYA Gala stage in February 2020, he had no idea what America and the world would experience regarding the pandemic and the change that they would be able to drive leveraging platforms like STEM City USA.

“You’re going to have an opportunity to inspire young people, probably at a time when we never needed it more as a country,” Crawford told the 2022 Black Engineer of the Year. “It’s young people of color; there’s the gender piece, and you’re going to be surprised at the knowledge and understanding of non-people of color based on the work of folks on the screen.”

In November 2020, Crawford joined Jacobs’s Critical Mission Solutions line of business as senior vice president for strategic development. Crawford provides leadership, vision, and focus on supporting growth and continued development and innovative solutions across an ever-expanding client base within critical mission solutions.

Dr. Victor McCrary is vice president for research and graduate programs at the University of the District of Columbia. He received BEYA’s 1990 Most Promising Engineer Award.

“I got pulled it into this thing, and it’s just been wonderful,” he said. “In 2012, I was the BEYA Scientist of the Year.”

Echoing General Crawford, McCrary said the United States is at a Sputnik 2 moment. As vice-chair of the National Science Board, McCrary stressed the importance of diverse talent to build new technologies. “We need more young women and men,” he said. “Many people from the director of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) down have said we’ve been fishing in the same pools,” he said. “It’s 1947,” McCrary continued with a baseball analogy. “We’re the Brooklyn Dodgers, and we’re facing the Yankees, and you (Ted Colbert) is that Jackie Robinson these young women and young men can look up to go forward. When you look at all the conflicts of this country, they’ve always had to pull on people of color to come to the fore to make a make difference,” McCrary said.

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Gen. Lester Lyles said STEM reports, research organizations dealing with STEM, and studies from the Department of Defense on research at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) show how pivotal the moment is.

‘Make sure your legacies will never be lost’

Retired United States Army four-star general Johnny Wilson has been attending BEYA since he was invited by the 1998 Black Engineer of the Year Joe N. Ballard. Wilson said that each year he always meets a young professional who tells him that years ago, they were sitting at the back of the auditorium and now proud to say that they had received a BEYA for their achievements and accomplishments in STEM.

 

“We need to be out front letting the young people know what’s possible,” said Braithwaite.” By setting examples, encouraging them, and getting involved in the communities as much as we can. There’s an engineer of the year, but we would not have been on the front cover unless there were Black engineers of the year.

 

Taborn said CCG and its partners are looking forward to 2022 and the role of the STEM City USA platform, which provides a 356-day platform for the BEYA STEM Conference and the Women of Color in STEM Conference.

Additionally, Taborn announced that the Black Engineer of the Year Museum will be built in virtual reality (VR) on STEM City USA and attached to the 2022 BEYA STEM Conference platform.

“We’re in a moment when companies, organizations, and government, are taking more time to recognize people of color who are achieving in our fields,” said Colbert. He acknowledged there was still a lot of work to do, but he was enthusiastic about what had been achieved so far. “When we bring leaders from the Pacific Northwest to the East Coast to come to this conference and walk into a room with thousands of Black people focused on engineering, it changes them,” Colbert said. “It makes such a difference in the culture of the company. When Bo Leslie was retiring, he pulled me aside at one event and said, make sure it never dies.”

Colbert’s parents are alumni of Morgan State University, where the couple met and got married. The 2022 Black Engineer of the Year said his first childhood home was across the street from Morgan State, the leading historically Black college in Baltimore. As a child, he heard the band playing and went to many football games, he said. He also spoke of friends who graduated from Morgan State’s engineering college and are successful engineers today.

As CIO at Boeing, Colbert said he worked to change the face of information technology (IT) at Boeing, replacing minority leaders with minority leaders and women leaders with women leaders.  Colbert is currently the vice-chair of the Thurgood Marshall Fund and working to secure millions of dollars in funding to help recruit more students. He said he had made it a mission to bring on board more tech leaders and aerospace leaders. He also gave a shout-out to the female engineers at Ford Motor Company who brought him to his very first BEYA STEM Conference several years ago.


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