By Tanya Dallas Lewis, Black By God – The West Virginian
An all-boys robotics team from Berkeley and Jefferson counties competed at the 49th National Society of Black Engineers Annual “I.AM.STEM” Convention held in Kansas City, MO.
The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is one of the largest student-governed organizations in the United States. NSBE, founded in 1975, supports and promotes the aspiration of collegiate and pre-collegiate students and technical professionals in engineering and technology.
This year’s teammates, Andre, Amare, Amer, Ace, Anthony, Brice, Jeremiah, and Samson, ages 6 to 18, are future engineers.
The First Lego League Phantom Unit, the middle school robotics team, and NanKnights, the high school team, recall being surrounded by more than 19,000 of their Black peers during the convention.
“I was able to compete with many talented minds and be surrounded by engineers who look just like me,” Jeremiah McCall, a Jefferson County Washington High School senior, said.
The boys were backed by the financial donations of local community members, civic organizations, family and friends, who reaffirmed that they have everything it takes to be today’s innovators, problem-finders, solution-makers, and creators.
The students are part of an extension of the Dynamic Mathematical Visionaries NSBE Jr. DMV chapter based out of Washington D.C., which includes multiple teams that help children thrive with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities.
“There is a diversity gap in the STEM fields, and clubs like NSBE Jr. give our students exposure to endless possibilities in the skillsets and interests they already have.” parent Dale Lewis said.
These young men want to counter the narrative around Black boys and their plight in education.
Their individual academic accomplishments are many.
Brice Alawuru, a seventh-grade Charles Town Middle School student, was recently accepted into Session I of Governor’s STEM Institute, where this summer, he will join 47 other motivated seventh graders from across the state at West Virginia University to build on their STEM expertise as they delve into “The Math and Science of Amusement Parks.”
Through the Engineering Tomorrow NSBE Jr. program, 11th grade Martinsburg High School student Samson Lewis has been invited to participate in a summer internship with NASA engineers in Washington D.C.
The NSBE Jr. team parents and coaches were overwhelmed by the community’s warm words, affection and generosity, which enabled these young men to experience a “once-in-a-lifetime” event.
“I was overwhelmed by all the community support! We didn’t have to leave not one young man behind,” Andre and Jasmine Turner, parents of four of the boys who competed at the Missouri convention, said.
Help came from various places, including from family members who shared a GoFundMe link on their social media pages and from the Jefferson County chapter NAACP who hosted the boys at one of their monthly meetings. Financial donations came from the Page Jackson Alumni Association, local churches and many other anonymous donors.
Every penny of the contributions went towards the boys’ registration, materials, airfare and lodging fees.
Congratulations to the First Lego League Phantom Unit and the NanKnights for representing Berkeley and Jefferson Counties well! These students are evidence that dreams can come true when you have a community backing you!
The team seeks to add scholars, ages fifth through 12th grade, to the Jefferson County NSBE Jr. team. If interested, please contact Jasmine Turner at jcwvnsbejr.org.
Click here to learn more about the 49th Annual NSBE Convention, March 22-26, 2023.
Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/N2kTVa566BY
Tanya Dallas Lewis is an educator in Charlestown, West Virginia