Twenty-fifth Black Engineer of the Year Awards recognize more than 300
Engineers in industry and the military plus scientists and diversity champions were recognized for their achievements
Outreach to youth from middle school through college is always a big part of the event
By Kate Colborn
Editor in Chief
The Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) conference celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2011. The annual BEYA STEM Global Competitiveness Conference, put on by Career Communications Group, has become a highlight of the year for engineers and scientists of color, as scores of high achievers are recognized in a range of categories. Lockheed Martin was co-sponsor of this year's event. More than 300 awards were presented.
The 2011 award festivities included two luncheons, honoring "Trailblazers" and "Modern-Day Technology Leaders," and two dinners, one focused on "Emerald Honors" for scientists, and the other, tagged "Stars and Stripes," recognizing military leaders.
The windup, of course, was the Black Engineer of the Year Gala, a black-tie event that culminated in the naming of the 2011 Black Engineer of the Year. He is EE Lloyd W. Howell, Jr, an EVP at Booz Allen Hamilton.
Stars and Stripes honors military techies
The Stars and Stripes dinner started as a Sunday-morning networking breakfast. Today it's grown to be a highlight of the conference. It's now a full dinner event, hosted in rotation by each of the services. This year the Navy was the host service, and the evening featured a tribute to the hundredth anniversary of naval aviation. Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was honored, and several other Joint Chiefs attended.
The defense contracting community was also well-represented at the Stars and Stripes. Among the opening speakers was William Swanson, chair and CEO of Raytheon Company, a major sponsor of the dinner. "Raytheon provides an 'unfair advantage' to our troops on the battlefield, and we will continue to do so," he said. "Engineers are needed more than ever in this era of intense global competition."
Early outreach to nextgen engineers
Students from middle school to college were very much in evidence. VEX robotics events for middle- and high-school students featured excitement and spirited competition. Maryland Math Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) hosted K-12 student workshops. Mentoring events brought budding engineers together with industry and military technology leaders.
During the Thursday lunch, Tyrone Taborn, CEO of Career Communications Group, announced the launch of a new Technology Awareness Program tool for classrooms, including a series of nine lesson plans that introduce students at many levels to the excitement of technology and the potential of STEM careers.
HBCUs and more
The conference is also a venue for both networking and recruiting by HBCUs and other colleges and universities. A Saturday-morning breakfast brought together the deans of more than a dozen HBCUs with engineering departments for professional networking, and many schools took advantage of the career fair and robotics competitions to talk to prospective undergrad and graduate students.
Women of color in STEM
A sister conference in the fall recognizes the contributions of women of color in STEM professions, but there was a preview panel discussion at the BEYA event. Women technical and research pros from IBM, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, PNC Bank and the National Science Foundation talked about the challenges and triumphs they had faced and overcome as pioneers.
"When I was told I should get a PhD I had never heard of a black person with a PhD," one panelist reported. "That was a dream I didn't know how to dream."
The panelists also emphasized their commitment to bringing more young people of color into the STEM world.
A gala finish
Chrysler Group and Northrop Grumman sponsored the BEYA Awards Gala, which honored twenty-plus technical stars. Several CEOs and company presidents marked the BEYA anniversary, among them Robert Stevens, CEO of Lockheed Martin. Over the last twenty-five years, "Every company has benefited from the BEYA ," he noted.
The 2010 Black Engineer of the Year, John D. Harris, VP of Raytheon Technical Services Inc, remarked that the conference attendees were all "quiet heroes," and role models "for people you know and people you don't know. You inspire both by reaching back and paying forward."
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