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NSBE Students Crown Their Year with Trip to National Conference

Mechanical engineering junior Moijue Kaikai has been busy this year. In addition to his demanding curriculum in mechanical engineering, he took over as president for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) student chapter in September. In the process, he re-energized the chapter, which was down to two active members, raising that number to 35. He also raised more than $8,000 to support the society’s activities and pave the way for 20 NSBE members to attend the society’s recent national conference in Pittsburgh, though many of those attendees had to pay their own registration fee of $210 apiece. Besides conferences, the NSBE members have been engaged in community service activities, African-American awareness programs, and collaborative projects with other student groups on campus.

First thing on the agenda for Kaikai last September was raising money so NSBE could function. He did that by researching which individuals and organizations had funded the student chapter in the past and organizing grant proposals for those sponsors. Once that funding was in the pipeline, the organization was ready to swing into action.

One of the many NSBE events this year was raising funds for Keep a Child Alive, a non-profit organization which provides first-class care, treatment, surrounding support, and food for children and families affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.

“We had a ‘Family Feud’ fund-raising event, with one of our electrical engineers rigging up an electronic program for the event, including all the bells and whistles,” says Kaikai.

In February, NSBE hosted a cultural event entitled “Above the Color,” a poster presentation of African-American engineers and scientists who overcame adversity and made a real difference in the world of science.

“These were men and women from multiple generations who have made amazing discoveries,” said the organizers for the event, Jessica Boakye, Annuli Okoye, and Fedorah Berlus. “From Dr. Charles Richard Drew, who set up the first blood bank only to be told that only Caucasian blood could be used to help soldiers during WWII, to Patricia Bath, who invented the Laserphaco Probe to treat cataracts, these are real role models. They make us feel that we do belong in this field and can achieve our goals.”

Another highlight of the year was the NSBE’s 38th annual conference from March 28 to April 1, including a two-day career fair and graduate school recruiting venue. “There were 150 companies in Pittsburgh and representatives from many graduate schools,” says Kaikai. “What I found most valuable about the conference was the overall atmosphere. Most of us were first-generation college attendees in engineering schools where African-Americans are scarce. Everybody there knew how hard it is.”

NSBE advertises its annual convention as a “one-stop shop for recruitment of top engineering and technology candidates. Our convention sponsorship opportunities give recruiters full access to applicants and maximum visibility during an event that attracts close to 10,000 attendees.”

“It’s a really good experience for undergraduates like me,” said Kaikai. “It lets you know what to expect, so we can be more prepared and get much more out of it next year.”

NSBE, founded in 1975, is the world’s premier organization serving black engineers, scientists, technologists, and mathematicians. Its mission — “to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community” — is now embraced by nearly 30,000 active members across the U.S. and beyond. (April 2012)