A student-organized event celebrating African Americans in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) returns after a successful 2022 debut, featuring a panel discussion with distinguished Black scientists, engineers and professionals, as well as community vendors, live music and more.
The Black in STEM Celebration will be held from 2-7 p.m. Saturday, March 4 at Panther Plaza and the Denius Student Center and its second-floor Hartley Room. It free to attend and open to the public.
Among the first events of the day will be the panel discussion from 2:30-3:45 p.m. in the Hartley Room African American STEM professionals will share their experiences and insights. Panelists scheduled to participate are:
- Winston Scott, Florida Tech emeritus faculty, retired NASA astronaut
- Ronald Gamble Jr., NASA astrophysicist, cosmic origins scientist and vice president of Black in Astro
- Rebecca Landrau, Northrop Grumman aerospace software engineer and Florida Tech alumna in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering
- CaTameron Bobino, STEM ambassador and biologist
- Ramone Hemphill, founder of The99th.org who earned his MBA in project management at Florida Tech
The panel discussion is a key part of what organizers hope to achieve with the event: to bring awareness to the often-overlooked accomplishments and experiences of African Americans in various STEM fields and highlight options and opportunities for younger people in the community.
“We’d like to inspire African-American students, to show them that there’s more that they can do than just be a performer or an entertainer or an athlete, anything like that, show them that there’s a lot more opportunities in the world,” said Iryan Ogbezuwa, an electrical engineering major and president of the Black Student Union who is helping to organize Black in STEM.
The event will include a community market featuring Black-owned businesses. In addition to clothes, jewelry, hand-made candles and food, there will also be vendors providing community services, something Anna Thomas and Ashauntie Reid, STEM majors and two of the event organizers, wanted to incorporate this year.
“We’re encouraging a lot of non-foods related vendors to come and educate the community, which also gives them that exposure,” Thomas said. “You have people who are offering healthcare. You have people who are offering business advice. You have people who are there to support you through counseling. And they’re people right here in your community. That’s a really big thing that we’re trying to push this year that’s different from last year.”
There will also be live performances by South Florida-based R&B artist Marnino and band Purple Flux.
Judging from reactions to the first Black in STEM event, the second promises to make an impact on those who attend.
“I had children coming up to me saying, ‘Oh my gosh, thank you so much for putting this together. I’m thinking about going into the STEM field, I’m thinking about being a doctor, an astrophysicist, and that was really, really cool,’ event organizer Jordan Forman said of last year’s event. “I had parents walking out to me saying that they were inspired, and neighbors from my neighborhood who came out to the event were like, ‘Wow, that panel was so impactful.’”
The 2023 Black in STEM Celebration has received increased support this year from the Florida Tech community through Director of Student Life and Orientation Cat Nanney and the Student Life team and fraternities and sororities helping with setting up and organizing.
The event organizers themselves have been a great example of STEM professionals making an impact. Last year, Forman, who has now graduated from Florida Tech with a degree in astrophysics and astronomy, had three virtual internships with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and worked for national research center Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Germany this past summer. Ogbezuwa became Black Student Union president this month and is learning the programming languages Python, C++ and Java.
Thomas is part of a senior design group that’s focusing on atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, and the potential steroidal addiction that comes with curing it. The team is developing a transdermal drug delivery patch, similar to a nicotine patch, to help wean people off of topical steroids if they experience topical steroid withdrawal.
“It’s something very near and dear and close to my heart that I experienced, because I also have eczema, and I know a lot of African Americans also experience eczema, and it’s often misdiagnosed or mistreated because it looks differently on black skin,” she said.
For more information on the Black in STEM Celebration, visit https://floridatech.campuslabs.com/engage/event/8789042.