“To celebrate Black History Month 2022, we are highlighting African American coaches and mentors who are making history and inspiring students in STEM through the REC Foundation’s VEX IQ Challenge and VEX Robotics Competition. Each individual shares their thoughts on what has made their program successful and offers practical advice and insights to help other aspiring coaches, mentors, and teams to embrace a diverse robotics and STEM community.”

- Corey McCoy, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, REC Foundation

FEATURES

Edward Tunstel, Ph.D.

Edward Tunstel, Ph.D. is the CTO for Motiv Space Systems, Inc. and has been a roboticist for over 30 years. He is a Fellow of IEEE and Sr. Past President of the IEEE SMC Society, having previously served as its President, in several of its VP roles, and as General Chair of the 2011 IEEE SMC conference. He is an active member of the IEEE SMC Technical Committees on Robotics & Intelligent Sensing, on Brain-Inspired Cognitive Systems, and on Model-Based Systems Engineering, IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Space Robotics, and the AIAA Space Automation and Robotics Technical Committee. He is an Associate Editor or Editorial Board Member of five international engineering journals. He previously served as Chief Technologist of NSBE Space, a special interest group of NSBE Professionals, and held memberships in the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, the New York Academy of Sciences, and ASME.

Junior Bernadin

Junior Bernadin is the dean of students, IT Director, and House System Expert at the highly-acclaimed Ron Clark Academy (RCA), an innovative middle school and educator training facility. He has trained over 100,000 educators from around the world to learn better ways to engage students, increase academic rigor, and create a climate and culture for success. In conjunction with his daily duties at RCA, Mr. Bernadin spends additional time after hours serving as a coach for the award-winning RCA FLL Robotics Team, 4-time National Champion RCA Step Team, and the 5-time National Champion MATHCounts Video Challenge Team and Jr. Tech Engineer’s Program.

Rodney Williams

Rodney Williams is the coach of South Panola High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) VEX Robotics and Drone Team. He has led the teams since 2020, winning the West Virginia Regional Drone Meet in 2021. Rodney retired from the Air Force as a Technical Sergeant.  He is also a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He holds degrees from Community College of the Air Force and Mississippi Valley State University. He has taught Air Force JROTC for 5 years in Central Mississippi.  

Eric J. Davis

Eric J. Davis works with VEX IQ Challenge and VEX Robotics teams in Maryland.  He is an Executive Director for the STEM Center of Excellence, Inc. and works to develop the STEM workforce in the Greater Baltimore area.

Arkadia K. Armour

Arkadia K. Armour works with VEX IQ Challenge  teams at Lakeside School District in Arkansas.  As a new educator, she took on the role of robotics coach for the elementary team. In doing so, she found an insurmountable love for robotics over the past 5 years.

Oscar DeVon McCullough

Oscar DeVon McCullough works with robotics teams at Potomac School in Virginia. He has had a passion for robotics, Science, and Math since he was young. His early experiences in VEX Robotics in middle school has lead to his involvement in robotics in high school, university, and beyond.  

Marcia Evans and Sandra Whittle-Jeffcoat

Marcia Evans and Sandra Whittle-Jeffcoat are VEX IQ Challenge coaches and mentors to inner city youth in Las Vegas, Nevada with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Las Vegas. Marcia, a retired nurse and financial education services representative, first experienced VEX Robotics competitions at VEX Worlds.  After experiencing the competitions and talking with teams, Marcia wanted to bring the program back to students in her community. Sandra, a retired engineer, had noticed that inner city students seemed behind in technology, had limited access to computers, and no robotics experience. After learning about the VEX IQ Challenge competition, she too wanted to bring the competition experience to the students.

Calvin Mackie, Ph.D.

Calvin Mackie, Ph.D. is the founder of STEM NOLA, a non-profit dedicated to exposing, inspiring, and engaging communities to STEM. His non-profit has engaged over 60,000 K-12 students in STEM through robotics camps and challenges. A native New Orleanian, he taught at Tulane University for 11 years before refocusing his career on entrepreneurship, consulting, and professional speaking. He received his bachelor's degree, master's degree, and a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech.

Aprille Ericsson, Ph.D.

Aprille Ericsson Ph.D. is the New Business Lead for the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Instrument Systems and Technology Division. She is currently a member of the Board of Higher Education and Workforce for National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She received her doctorate from Howard University.

Norman Fletcher

Norman Fletcher is a Senior Global Engineering Manager at Expedia. He multi-tasks with cross-functional groups utilizing data to uncover opportunities for efficiency from algorithmic tweaks in AI and robotics to tectonic shifts in strategy. Norman completed his masters degree in computer science at Middlesex University with major project work in robotic software for paraplegics. He spent the last few years working in multiple countries to develop a fully automated robotic hand with a software to drive an extensive hardware, used by manufacturers including Hitachi, Seagate and Western Digital.

Angela Wells

Angela Wells is studying to receive her Masters of Computer Science Artificial Intelligence at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. She currently teaches courses at the City University of Seattle. Previously, she's taught courses in China and Vietnam.

A. Michael West Jr.

A. Michael West Jr. is pursuing his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He’s currently researching the use of robots for expediting human rehabilitation during physical therapy and improving human-robot physical interaction. After receiving his doctorate, he hopes to continue research as a tenured professor with the hopes of inspiring other African American students to pursue STEM-related fields.

Donna Auguste, Ph.D.

Donna Auguste, Ph.D. is the Founder/CEO of the Auguste Research Group, where she works extensively with sensors and sensor data fusion. She is an advocate for diversity in STEM education. She received her doctorate from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Quentin Sanders, Ph.D.

Quentin Sanders, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral research fellow at North Carolina State University. He received his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Irvine and has had a passion for robotics ever since he was a child.

Carlotta A. Berry, Ph.D.

Carlotta A. Berry, Ph.D. is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She teaches students how to design mobile robots to be intelligent by creating control algorithms. She received her doctorate in Human-Robot Interaction from Vanderbilt University.
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