Q: Please tell us about yourself and educational background as well as the challenges you faced and overcame.
Eggleston: When I was in High School I wanted to major in Math, because I really didn’t know that much about Engineering. I received a B.S. in Mathematics with minor in Computer Science from Alabama A&M University. Upon graduation I noticed that I wasn’t receiving job offers and the most frequent question asked was “Do you have any engineering experience?” I was competing with students that had engineering backgrounds or had worked industry to gain experience. Since I had neither, I decided to go back to school where I then received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. While obtaining my second degree I got married and had two beautiful daughters. These life changing events only made me want to work harder to complete what I had started. Once I received my second degree I moved companies and was offered an opportunity to work on my master’s program. I received a M.S. in Management with concentration in Information Systems from the Florida Institute of Technology.
Q: Can you share a few words about the North Alabama Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers: your mission, members, scholarship initiative and other programs?
Eggleston: The NSBE’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black Engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.” Over the past twenty plus years, the North Alabama Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers has sponsored over 50 minority students to Space Camp through scholarships. With approximately 30 members, the Chapter remains extremely active in the community by participating in partnerships with several elementary, middle, and high schools. Our chapter has also developed a College Initiative relationship with NSBE Collegiate Chapters at Alabama A&M University, University of Alabama in Huntsville and Oakwood University. Some of our many activities include sponsoring our Annual Scholarship Program, our Summer Engineering Camp for Robotics, our Annual Golf Tournament and our Annual 5K Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Power Run. Our Scholarships Program allows our chapter to provide scholarships to deserving students within the North Alabama area. We award students from grade 5 to grade 12 by providing scholarships to the U.S. Space Academy, the Summer Engineering Robotics Camp and monetary donations to the student and to their university.
Q: Can you please illuminate us on your Annual Summer Engineering Camp (SEC) 4 Robotics?
Eggleston: The North Alabama NSBE Professionals embarked on a vision to develop a Robotics Camp that would encourage students on grades 5th through 8th to consider engineering as a realistic and obtainable career option. The NSBE Professionals started the camp in one high school with 50 students in 2012. In 2013 the Huntsville City School system partnered with NSBE to help grow the camp; and it did with 134 students attending. With the continued partnership of NSBE and the Huntsville City Schools the Robotics Camp in its 4th year attracted 400 students in three different high schools. The five day camp is developed to be a technology-rich program that focuses on promoting the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines while teaching core values of leadership, teamwork, and communications skills. In one week the students are provided an opportunity to design, build, and program LEGO Mindstorm Robots and VEX IQ Robots. In addition the students are being exposed to various areas of STEM disciplines through a daily team/individual math competition, engineers visiting classrooms and presentations from various Industry partners. NSBE has had a positive response from the community, and we believe that the partnership between NSBE Professionals and Huntsville City Schools has solidified a great foundation for impacting the lives of our youth across the city.
Q: How important are both the professional and social aspects (such as your Annual Golf Tournament) of your organization for its members?
Eggleston: The North Alabama NSBE Professionals are dedicated individuals that believe in the mission of the organization. Though we pride ourselves on continuing to grow student’s awareness of STEM disciplines we also have to grow within ourselves. As a chapter we realize that we can learn from each other, so we use different events to socialize with other engineers within our community. Last year, NSBE wanted to touch on health initiatives, so we held our 1st Annual 5K Run along with a STEM Fair afterwards and our 1st Annual Golf Tournament. Events such as these allows our professional members to reach out into our community to let them know what we are doing as an organization and how we can benefit their company.
Q: Finally, can you share a few words for college students of color (African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders) who are currently pursuing STEM studies and might be experiencing academic difficulties?
Eggleston: Everything that I have done in my life would not have been possible without acknowledgment of God as my Savior. I tell minority students all the time, do not be afraid of trying and asking for help. There is nothing wrong with getting assistance from someone, because we all did not get where we are today without the aid of someone else. As a student in the classroom you have a right to ask questions so don’t think that your question is not important. Get involved with organizations within your school because being around other engineers learning from them will help you better understand what is expected of you inside the classroom. This is not an easy field, especially for students of color and woman; but we can’t allow people to use these things against us to make us feel that we are not capable of excelling. If engineering was easy then everyone would be an engineer, you have to realize that there will be rough times but as long as you keep focus and pray about it all you will make it through.