UMBC chapter of National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) shines at regional conference

Published: Dec 5, 2023

group photo of five people in professional attire and conference lanyards, two wearing black stoles with red, green, and yellow accents.
UMBC attendees at the regional National Society of Black Engineers conference show off their official conference name badges. From left to right: Daniel Williams, Saleem Lawal, Kayla MaGruder, Nelanne Bolima, and Belin Tirfe. (Image courtesy of Nelanne Bolima)

Members of UMBC’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) traveled to Norfolk, Virginia for their annual regional conference in November and came home with numerous awards. 

The UMBC team defeated Carnegie Mellon University and North Carolina State University to win the Tech Bowl competition, a Jeopardy-style game that tests teams’ knowledge of fundamental engineering principles. UMBC also claimed first through third place in the research poster presentation contest, which involved a 10-minute technical research talk followed by questions from the judges and audience.

The team relied on prior knowledge to excel in the Tech Bowl, only having decided to participate upon arriving at the conference. “It was really exciting getting so many questions right with our only practice being from our coursework,” shares UMBC NSBE chapter president Nelanne Bolima ’24, chemical engineering. “That just goes to show how well UMBC’s College of Engineering and IT prepares students to succeed.”

man speaking standing next to a research poster with a screen behind him that reads "NSBE Engineering Conference, Nov 3- 5, 2023"; seated audience members listen
Daniel Williams gives his research presentation at the NSBE conference. (Image by Nelanne Bolima)

In addition to Bolima, the Tech Bowl team members included Kayla Magruder ’26, chemical engineering; Saleem Lawal ’25, computer science; and Daniel Williams ’24, computer science. Presentation winners were Williams (first), Bolima (second), and Christopher Appiah ’24, mechanical engineering (third). Keith Harmon, director of the UMBC Meyerhoff Scholars Program, serves as the chapter advisor.

“We are so proud of the UMBC NSBE Chapter,” Harmon shares. “They do tremendous work supporting UMBC STEM majors and offering service impacting youth in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.”

Students supporting students

NSBE is a completely student-run organization, creating leadership opportunities for hundreds of students across the country. UMBC’s NSBE chapter supports members through activities such as mentoring initiatives, conference preparation, networking opportunities, and leadership development programming. The chapter also focuses on community outreach, such as visiting high schools, collaborating with non-profits, and welcoming younger students to shadow the chapter’s board meetings.  

man speaking, his arms pointing toward a research poster; seated audience members listen
Christopher Appiah gives his research presentation at the NSBE conference. (Image by Nelanne Bolima)

“I have benefitted from being a member of this team by gaining invaluable public speaking and collaboration skills,” Appiah shares. “I learned how to effectively present, detailing the broader impact of research I have done.” Appiah conducts research with Ankit Goel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Goel’s group works on complex applications of control theory in robotics and autonomous systems. 

For Jaden Somerville ’25, mechanical engineering, “the competition not only improved my technical skills, but also taught me teamwork, problem-solving, and effective time management.”

In March 2024, the chapter will take its talents to the 50th annual NSBE convention in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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