The most chal­lenging tech­nical prob­lems facing engi­neers and sci­en­tists today don’t have an easy answer. But proposing an approach is a crit­ical first step to moving toward research and devel­op­ment, according to North­eastern grad­uate stu­dent Sarah Brown.

Brown is the spe­cial projects coor­di­nator in the National Pro­grams Com­mittee of the
National Society of Black Engi­neers
. She is also a member of Northeastern’s chapter of the NSBE, known on campus as the Black Engi­neering Stu­dent Society. Founded in 1974, BESS is ded­i­cated to rec­og­nizing under­rep­re­sented minori­ties in the sci­ence, tech­nology, engi­neering, and math fields and helping them pre­pare for their future careers.

Northeastern’s chapter was recently named Chapter of the Year for 2011–2012 in its size cat­e­gory. It was also rec­og­nized as the chapter with the highest per­centage of mem­bers main­taining a GPA greater than 3.0 out of more than 250 chap­ters nationally.

Our mis­sion is to increase the number of cul­tur­ally respon­sible Black engi­neers that excel aca­d­e­m­i­cally, suc­ceed pro­fes­sion­ally, and pos­i­tively impact our com­mu­nity,” Brown said.

BESS pro­vides a host of oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents to build their schol­ar­ship, which includes facing real-​​world chal­lenges pro­fes­sional engi­neers tackle every day. One such oppor­tu­nity arose this winter through the second annual Tech­nical Chal­lenge Com­pe­ti­tion spon­sored by Draper Lab­o­ra­tory, a non­profit engi­neering orga­ni­za­tion based in Cam­bridge, Mass.

Brown also serves on the NSBE involve­ment com­mittee at Draper, where she is a research fellow. Stu­dents from more than 75 uni­ver­si­ties in the region were invited to submit 500-​​word pro­posals describing their inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to a tech­nical engineering-​​design problem that aligns with var­ious tech­nology areas pur­sued at Draper. Final­ists pre­sented their pro­posals at a regional con­fer­ence. All three win­ners hailed from Northeastern’s chapter.

Mechan­ical engi­neering major Oliver Mau­rice earned first place for his solu­tion to the chal­lenge that involved inves­ti­gating how bio­com­pat­ible med­ical devices and other tech­nolo­gies implanted in the human body can be tested and reach the market more quickly. “I let my imag­i­na­tion run wild, taking inspi­ra­tion from a variety of places in my life to for­mu­late some inno­v­a­tive ideas,” he said.

Samantha Kendrick, pres­i­dent of Northeastern’s NSBE chapter, earned second place for her approach to cre­ating an end-​​to-​​end recy­cling system for both res­i­den­tial and busi­ness set­tings. The expe­ri­ence was one of many pro­vided by her affil­i­a­tion with the stu­dent group that has allowed her to become a more suc­cessful stu­dent engineer.

Being a member of BESS and NSBE has set me up pro­fes­sion­ally for any future endeavor I take on,” Kendrick said. “They both create a cama­raderie for minority engi­neers and have a plan to ensure that each member flour­ishes and succeeds.”

Third-​​place winner Idriys Harris, a master’s can­di­date in com­puter and elec­trical engi­neering, agreed, calling the group his “second family.