NSBE National Convention 2012

Six students travelled to Pittsburgh for the annual national convention for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) from Wednesday, April 28, to Sunday, April 1.

This is the first year of the Boys' Latin NSBE Jr. chapter. Any interested student is eligible to apply to the chapter.

The six students attending this year's convention started prepared for a Try-Math-a-Lon competition in December, convening on alternating Saturdays to improve skills in math. Two graduate engineering students and NSBE members from Penn pitched in on some of the Saturday practices to help prepare the students. 

Read the blog entries below from our chapter's representatives at the convention.

Wednesday, March 28 

Mr. Smith—5:00pm
Arriving in Pittsburgh

The bus ride from Philly took a little more than 6 hours. When we arrived, we decided to stroll down Liberty Avenue. I was more excited about the walk than the guys were. (We were dragging suitcases behind us.) The walk gave us a chance to scope out the convention center, which is where most of the conference activities were scheduled to take place. We walked through the city’s “Cultural District,” past the August Wilson Center and theatres. As we passed each cross street and moved toward the “Golden Triangle,” there was a yellow bridge to our right. We saw PNC park across the river and then finally reached our hotel. We were all impressed with how nice the hotel accommodations were. The building was already buzzing with activity as conference attendees arrived. Once we settled in, we went back to the convention center to pick up our badges, bags, and schedules. For dinner, the guys were determined to order pizza. 

Thursday, March 29

TMAL-USA Math Competition

The TMAL math competition consisted of several math questions that we had prepared for since last December. The problems were relatively easy to solve because we had spent a lot of time practicing. Toward the end of the test there were questions about NSBE that we had a little more trouble with. The questions pertained to NSBE history and also included questions about next year’s conference. (It will be in Indianapolis. We guessed it was going to be in California.) Before the competition, we did study some of the NSBE acronyms and the year NSBE was founded. None of the acronyms were on the test. We were given exactly 30 minutes to take the test. Everyone was very confident about their scores on the math section of the test. I feel as though we were prepared to take the math test, but we should spend more time learning NSBE history and details for next year’s competition.

The Technology of 3D

The Region 1 Pre-College Initiative chair led a session about 3D technology. She was from Brooklyn and is a computer engineer at the City University of New York. I learned that 3D images are actually made of two images put on top of one another. The images are created using 90-degree mirrors that reflect the image. When the images are projected, our eyes combine them and we perceive depth in an image that is only really in two dimensions.

TMAL-USA Math Competition

The physics test or “tech” test was difficult. The one strategy that worked effectively for us was teamwork. Without everyone contributing to the problems, we would have never finished it in time or as accurate. We were allowed to have only one calculator, which is one reason why we needed to work together. There were things on the “tech” test that we had to know: torque, magnitude of a wave, amplitude of a wave, wavelengths, inertia, work, kinetic energy, and friction. Now we have a feel for what next year’s test is going to look like. Three of us will be seniors next year and will be taking physics.

Boeing Flight Competition

An engineer from the Boeing company talked to us about the anatomy of an airplane. Boeing is a company that designs and builds airplanes. We learned about the parts of a plane: the wing, the body, the tail, and the propulsion system. We also learned about the ways axes on which a plane moves. Next, the employer showed us the different shapes and sizes of airplanes and what they were used for. Next, were had to create a design for an airplane. First, everyone had to agree on the same design. And then, we started putting the idea on paper. We had to draw a blueprint of how we are going to cut it out of a 3-inch by 36-inch piece of balsa wood. This task was very difficult because the wing and the tail should be designed to have a specific ratio, and we had to plug the measurements into an equation so that the airplane would be able to fly. The aspect ratio included the surface area divided by the length of the plane part. Eventually we finished the blueprint and got our outline for how we’re going to create our airplane model tomorrow.

Mr. Smith—7:00pm
University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University

For dinner, we decided to hop on the 71 local bus and ride out to some of the colleges in the city. It took about 10 minutes to reach the University of Pittsburgh from our hotel. The Pitt hospital system appeared first and was massive. We grabbed a bite to eat in an area that seemed to be popular for college students. Then we walked through parts of the University of Pittsburgh campus. We saw the Cathedral of Learning and the famous Panther statue. The campus was pristine. We walked past the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and then passed through part of the Carnegie Mellon University campus. Our impromptu tour showed the guys another part of the city and gave them a chance to see some of the major academic institutions in the city.

Friday, March 30

Middle and High School Science Fair

Our science fairs at school had trifold boards about projects and they were set up in a certain way that showed background research, results, and conclusions. Our projects for school had a hypothesis, graphs, diagrams, and other things to explain the projects. At the science fair at the convention center the high school and middle school projects had the same things. There were some very creative projects made by middle and high school students and they followed the same guidelines. Also when we looked at college projects it had the same setup. They included a lot of data, though, and some concepts and words that were a little more difficult to understand. The projects were on large posters instead of trifold boards. The posters were made by college students from across the country.

Pitt Mobile Science Lab

During the science lab, we participated in a regenerative medicine-nerve lab. First, we dipped two capillary tubes into polyvinyl alcohol. Then we let them dry. Next, we dipped coated capillary tubes into polycapralatane and let them dry. There was a PowerPoint presentation about the nervous system. For example, we learned that our body’s nerve guides were designed for peripheral nerves. Also, that available nerves guides are available for gaps that are 2-3 cm. Finally we learned that some reasons that might cause someone to need nerves to be repaired would be because of wounds during combat, trauma, diseases, and tumor surgery.

Career and College Fair

During the career fair, I was able to get a secondhand glance at astronomy. Although there were not any astronomers there for me to talk to, all of the representatives from NASA shared with me their experiences. I was told that the facilities in which they worked were like a “city within a city.” They have there own gyms, schools, banking systems and much, much more. Everyone I spoke to said that his or her experience getting there as well as working and being there now is the best. I was told to keep trying to move forward with my dreams and keep my head in the stars. I was told about Project Juno and a co-op. I can apply for a NASA co-op once I have taken certain courses in college. I was also told, “Do not graduate…without an internship and bachelor’s degree.” The representatives explained that an internship and a co-op would allow me to gain skills and experience that I couldn’t really get in a classroom. This experience would make me better prepared once I graduate.

Boeing Flight Competition

During the second part of the Boeing Airplane Competition, our group, “Warriors,” had to make some difficult decisions. One decision we had to make was which plane design we were going to use. We had to choose from a delta airplane model, a triple 7, and a spread-model plane. Team member Raleigh did a science fair project on airplanes and was familiar with these designs. The delta plane model was eliminated because it is impossible to make it out of a 3” by 36” wood piece, which is a little smaller than a meter stick. Then the triple 7 didn't fit our requirements of a plane that can glide. So we were left with the spread model plane. We then had to draw out our design in the next hour of the plane on to the wood. It was an accomplishment. Today our team went to a very large ballroom hall to start the actual drawing on the wood and the cutting with a box cutter. The wood was very thin and hard to keep straight cutting. The easiest part was drawing on the wood based off the scale on the graph sheet. Concentration is a big key in cutting it.

Managing the College Environment

“Managing the College Environment” was a very important session about going to college and addressed certain skills we will need as an incoming freshman in order to guarantee success the moment we step on campus. The presenter stressed that managing time in college is very important because in high school you are forced to go to class and are basically given the information you need to pass the class, but in the college environment you have to balance your social life with your school life and that may sometimes be challenging switching from your high school mindset into college. Study skills was also a major topic in the presentation, which I found really meaningful. I felt grateful for learning this before stepping foot on campus because now I know exactly how to approach studying in college, how to pass my classes, and how to get the credits I need to graduate in four years instead of five.

Saturday, March 31 

Boeing Flight Competition

The flight competition was quiet interesting. Everyone on our “Warrior” team was curious and questioning each other: "Do you think this plane will fly?” (aka "Yall think this thing gone fly?). No one knew for sure. So we had to examine the plane before flight to see what would cause it to fly. As the actual flight test began, we saw that the rubber band didn't pull as easy as we thought. It required three people to launch it. Our “Boeing Constricter” Plane flew a nice distance compared to all the other schools. We we won 2nd place based on the distance our plane glided.

August Wilson Center for African American Culture

The museum had pieces of art, music, and history about Pittsburgh. It described sports, important people, and important buildings. The museum had a program where you got on the computer and you could insert pictures of people, place, and things in Pittsburgh. Also you could make beats and music from famous Pittsburgh sounds and songs to go with the pictures. After you were done you published it and other people could look at it on the large TV screen in the room. The exhibit upstairs talked about the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted 381 days. There were video interviews with women talking about their experiences resisting the KKK and talking about integrating the Pittsburgh police force with female and police officers.

Building Interview Skills

This panel talked about how to develop interviewing skills for jobs and how to be the best fit for employers. First, the speakers talked about how to build a strong resume. They told the audience that we should try to include leadership qualities such as jobs, include programs to show experience, and provide education to show your work ethic. Next, they explained how to be prepared for an interview. I learned to look the employer in their eyes, have a positive attitude, be interested, and be knowledgeable about the company. Companies want people who have an interest in the company, not just to have a job. Certain body movements and expressions show the employer that you aren’t interested, and they won’t hire you. Also, when looking for a job, you have to apply for jobs that you qualify for. Your resume should show that you have some type of interest in the field that you are applying for.

How to Go to College for Free

The presenter explained to us how to write essays for scholarships. He told us that to be honest and be positive. He said don’t lie because if you lie then you have to remember what you lied about. Also if you get a follow-up interview because they liked your essay the interview is going to be based off of lies and it isn’t going to be good. He explained to us about techniques needed when speaking in an interview. He said be prepared to answer three questions: Tell us about yourself. What are you strengths? What are your weaknesses? Also he said make eye contact so they will be able to trust you. If they are going to give you money they have to able to trust you.

Writing a Winning Resume

During the session, we were told about the importance of a resume, as well as how to construct a resume. The process gives you a chance to talk about all the good things you have done and pretty much boast (but in a humble way) about yourself. No personal language is to be used and the resume is needed to build a bridge between you and your employer. It gives people the chance to show people about yourself and push to show your best qualities. At the end of the day it is useful to have more than one draft of a resume. What you put for colleges is not always the same thing that you will need to get your dream job.

More reflections coming soon...