By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Joydan Jones, president of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Birmingham Professionals chapter, knew little about engineering until she got to college. That’s why she wants her organization to partner with groups like the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) chapter of the Society of Women Engineers to give younger children a chance to experience the sciences.
“I do a lot of these kinds of events because I see the importance,” said Jones, a first year PhD student majoring in material science and engineering at UAB. “I think it’s important to expose black students, because you don’t know what’s out there unless you see it.”
Jordan and other representatives with NSBE were at UAB on Saturday, Feb. 10, for Kids in Engineering, an annual day-long event hosted by the UAB chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. Students in the fourth through sixth grades teamed up to construct a bottle rocket that they got to see take off.
Jones said she was pleased to see the number of black students at the event “because we as a people are not always exposed to people who look like us in these professions.
“It’s important for other minority students to see that they can be engineers, they can be any type of scientist they want to be,” she said. “You don’t have to be a football player or entertainer to be successful. Exposing [young people] to professions early on helps them break out of the box.”
In most of her classes, Jones does not see people of color.
“I’m either the only African-American, the only female, or the only African-American female,” she said. “There’s a huge disparity, but UAB does a pretty good job of being diverse.”
Curtis Vannor, NSBE programs coordinator and an electrical engineering major at UAB said Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)–based career options are crucial for black children.
“Not everybody can be a basketball player,” he said. “It’s more important to focus on STEM-based fields because that’s what’s going to give us more pull in society. I feel like it’s very important for black kids to get introduced to STEM.”