Black Youth Day Inspires Young Engineers
By Stephanie Molina
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas – The University of Texas hosted its first Black Youth Day on April 2, an event targeted at engineering students in grades 8-11 from underrepresented communities.
The UT chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office organized the event to promote diversity within the engineering department.
“In 2020, we realized how much oppression Black people faced in America,” said Vittorio Adeagbo, UT NSBE programs chair. “We decided we’re not going to let this continue being the case.”
Austin Buckley, a ninth-grader at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, dreams of becoming an engineer.
In order to get some hands-on experience, he joined about 60 other eighth- through 11th-graders for Black Youth Day.
“I really wanted to see other Black students interested in the sort of things I was interested in, so lots of engineering,” Buckley said. “Seeing people like me was really nice.”
Of the 13 undergraduate colleges at UT, Black students are least represented in Cockrell. Last fall, UT reported that about 3% of UT engineering undergraduates were Black.
In summer 2020, UT NSBE presented issued a list of demands. These requests include the creation of the John W. Hargis Lounge, a space meant for Black students and underrepresented communities within the college.
One of the other demands was to fund and recruit Black students in the Austin area to open a path for them within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Their goal is to mentor these young students in hopes it will encourage them to pursue careers in STEM.
“Our main hope is to get people inspired by their passion, so they don’t feel stuck doing something Black people aren’t meant to do,” said Caitlin Dubay, UT NSBE president.
Organizers designed the event to motivate students to start thinking about their future. Students walked around UT campus and saw the supportive community within the engineering department.
“We created this event so we could pull kids earlier and teach them about engineering just to get them in the mindset that this is a pathway for Black people,” Dubay said.
At the end of the event, a panel of Black engineering students answered student questions about navigating a predominantly white institution.
“We need people that look like us in those design rooms designing projects, [and] coming up with things that work for us,” said Dorcas Olaoye, UT NSBE social chair.
UT NSBE members brought up how the lack of representation in engineering has caused problems worldwide such as automatic soap dispensers not being able to detect darker skin tones. They concluded by saying that finding a community helps with powering through challenges.
“Seeing all these young kids that are genuinely interested in what they are doing is very rewarding,” Adeagbo said.
Black Youth Day will be an annual event.