HAMPTON, Va. - (September 23, 2020) – Hampton University faculty and students participated in the 27th Annual Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering (AMIE) Conference, September 9th and 10th. This innovative and interactive virtual conference brought together college and university deans, industry leaders, government officials, faculty and students to speak on discovering possibilities through research and partnerships in the engineering field.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s annual conference was held virtually over two days. There were several panels, which focused on the impact of COVID-19 on higher education, strengthening public, private and government partnerships and innovative research.
Dr. Joyce Shirazi, Dean of the Hampton University School of Engineering and Technology, moderated the HBCU Dean’s Roundtable discussion, where a panel of deans talked about their perspectives on the shared role of universities and corporations in influencing the trajectory of young engineers.
“It’s very important that companies truly engage and connect with HBCUs. For example, we would like to see companies on our campuses 2-3 times per semester, have panel discussions, and engage with faculty. By doing this, your expertise becomes a part of our colleges. We are preparing our students for you,” said Pamela Holland Obiomon, Dean at Prairie View A&M University. “We would like more endowments, or for companies to support endowed chairs and faculty members who are doing cutting-edge research, and can help take our colleges to the next level.”
Larry Luster, graduating senior, chemical engineering major, and president of Hampton’s National Society of Black Engineers chapter, gave a profound speech on a student’s perspective of succeeding in today’s climate by tackling the situation like an engineering problem.
“Let’s examine our system. We want to take a student, input them into a 4-year university in today’s climate, and convert them into a ‘culturally responsible…engineer that excels academically, succeeds professionally, and positively impacts the community.’ Seems simple enough. But what if the student is Black? What if our student is a Black male? What if our student is a Black male from a single parent, single income household?” Luster asked. “How can Black students succeed ‘in these times?’ They can’t. The conversion cannot be completed. The reaction cannot be completed without a catalyst. So you have to give them the tools they need to excel, not just to survive,” Luster said.
There was also one current Hampton University student and one recent alumna who took part in a panel discussion about rising above COVID-19.
Vicky Olivier, chemical engineering major, just graduated in May, so she was asked how she is maintaining engagement with the university and her peers. “I have been able to maintain communication with students still attending HU. I’ve been working from home so I have time to help tutor my peers if they need it and I am reaching out a lot more to previous classmates, seeing how they are coping with what we’re going through. Some of my classmates are continuing their education so I’ve been checking up on them to see how that’s going. Others have gone on to the workforce like me, so I like seeing how their experience is different from mine. I’ve also volunteered with the alumni committee to help out,” Olivier said.
Kristopher Small is an electrical engineering major, and he was asked about how he dealt with the pandemic when it first hit. “When the pandemic came about and reached us, we had to switch gears fast and get home. One positive aspect I’ve seen is that I’ve been able to be more creative. I had time to create a podcast, I’ve been doing graphic design, making YouTube videos, and doing some video editing. I’m picking up different skills, while still working on my programming skills,” Small said.
Also during the conference, Hampton University engineering students who won their 3rd consecutive AMIE Design Challenge, got to show a previously recorded presentation of their winning design. The team focused on emergency preparedness and more specifically on a platform that would have eased human suffering during Hurricane Dorian. They designed FlyComm, a drone and buoy based system to maintain cellular communications from air to sea during service interruptions.