A recent report from the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering revealed that African-Americans only make up seven percent of all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs in today’s workforce. Stony Brook student Roger Carson ’15 is well aware of that disparity and is doing something about it. He’s on the verge of earning a BE degree in mechanical engineering.
As president of the Stony Brook chapter of the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB), academic excellence chair of the Stony Brook Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and member of the Diversity Professional Leadership Network, a 45-member subgroup of Stony Brook’s Career Center, Roger is staying on top of opportunities available to him and his colleagues.
Roger benefited from having two parents with scientific backgrounds — his father worked for many years as a scientist for Procter & Gamble and his mother was previously employed as a medical researcher.
Roger’s interest in science began as it does for many children.
“I would spend hours playing with my LEGOs, constructing my own worlds,” he said. “I also had a habit of taking things apart and rebuilding them to see how they worked.”
Roger’s father and uncle recognized the young man’s innate ability to work with his hands, so they also taught him woodworking and how to fix cars. Even as an elementary school student, Roger would volunteer to repair the school’s computers, an interest that carried over into high school. There he learned computer-aided industrial design (CID) and added machining and welding to his skill set.
It was through CID that Roger first learned about mechanical engineering.
“Seeing my creations in the real world excited me more than having them only exist on a computer,” he said.
When Roger got the chance to participate in a competition to create semi-autonomous robots, he leapt at it. He entered the FIRST Robotics Competition, an international event in which high school students get a taste of real-world engineering.
At Stony Brook, Roger enjoyed lab classes related to mechanical engineering, including one in which he helped to construct a boat to compete against those built by other engineering students.
“Building the boat for my class is probably one of the most memorable things I have done during my education here,” he said. “We were a four-man team and we decided to build a dual pontoon wooden boat that was powered by a rubber band.”
“We painted the boat Stony Brook Red and added our team number,” he said. “Ultimately, we raced it against other teams’ boats in Roth Pond. The goal was to get across the fastest. While we didn’t fully make it across, we did get an A for the project, which definitely tested our teamwork, research and manufacturing skills.”
Honing his skills remains a priority for Roger, who had an opportunity to intern at Sikorsky Aircraft, a leading helicopter manufacturer, for two summers — a stint that came about as a result of the partnership that the Career Center has with INROADS, an organization that places talented underserved youth in business and industry.
Roger said he also finds it beneficial to be a part of the Diversity Professional Leadership Network, which has provided him with exposure to different sectors of the engineering field. Last year he mentored with an engineer from Research and Development at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and this year he is matched with a mentor from Broadridge Financial Solutions, a service company for the financial industry.
Roger is thankful for the role his education is playing in helping him achieve his career objective, and through his involvement with SAAB and NSBE, he wants to help others tap their potential to reach their goals.
Through SAAB, Roger is in charge of planning and executing “My First Day at College,” an event that educates local middle school children about the value of higher education. Also, as the NSBE’s academic chair, Roger coordinates with local high schools to teach them about STEM careers.
In addition, Roger and his SAAB club members are completing a documentary begun last year called “Change the Numbers,” which is about improving African-American statistics in education and socioeconomic status.
“A person should have a diverse population of friends and organizations he or she belongs to,” he said. “You don’t need to be a specific race, gender or creed. If a club interests you, go for it. These groups will become your world.”
— By Glenn Jochum; photos by Glenn Jochum and John Griffin