Carmichael UK Celebrates Black History Month

Ellena Tangi

October 2, 2017

October 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of National Black History Month.  The month is essential in helping to promote learning and contributing to community cohesion. We’re joining the celebrations by looking at the huge contributions black people have made to the engineering and STEM industry.

Walt Braithwaite

Jamaican born American engineer, Walt joined Boeing as an associate tool engineer in the Fabrication Division, in 1966. In 1975 he was the senior engineer responsible for the development of Boeing’s use of computer technology by using the CAD/CAM system in the design of commercial aeroplanes. The system is used by civil engineers when developing new buildings and structures. During his time at Boeing, Braithwaite’s teams oversaw the engineering development of the 707,727,737. He later became Head of Engineering Operations, he and his team oversaw the engineering for the 747, 767 and the 777, the first commercial aircraft to be designed entirely with computer-aided design. In 2000 Boeing named Braithwaite President of Boeing Africa, where he was responsible for supervising corporate activities in the region. After 36 years of working at Boeing, Braithwaite retired in 2003 as the highest-ranking black executive in Boeing’s history.

Mae Jemison  

The first African American woman to travel to space, Mae Jemison is also an engineer and physician. Born in 1956 in Decatur, Alabama, Jemison graduated from Stanford University in 1977 receiving a B.S in chemical engineering. Furthering her education, she obtained her Doctor of Medicine 4 years later and worked as a general practitioner. It was not until after the flight of Sally Ride in 1983 (the first American woman in space), that Jemison applied for NASA’s Astronaut Programme, under the observation that the programme had become more diverse. Before her space mission, Jemison worked to support launch activities at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, as well as the verification of Shuttle computer software.

Lonnie Johnson 

Born in Alabama in 1949, Johnson is an inventor and engineer who holds more than 80 patents. Lonnie is best known for inventing the Super Soaker that was released to toy shops in October 1990. The initial idea of the Super Soaker came while Johnson was working with the U.S Air Force in various roles in the Air Force Weapons and Jet Propulsion Laboratories. Being an inventor, Johnson came up with the idea to replace the water in the Super Soaker with a toy (Nerf) projectile. Johnson’s ideas have generated millions of pounds of sales.  Additionally, Johnson is said to be part of a small group of African- Americans whose work accounts for 6 % of all U.S. patent applications.

Mark Dean

Image: Engadget

An inventor and computer engineer. Dean was part of the team that developed the ISA bus and led the design team responsible for making a one-gigahertz computer processor chip. He is also the first African-American to be appointed as an IBM Fellow, the highest level of technical excellence one can receive at IBM. He holds more than 20 patents for his work and was awarded the President’s Award for the Black Engineer of the Year, as well as being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Kimberly Bryant 

Kimberly Bryant trained as an electrical engineer and computer programmer, before working in the biotechnology industry. In 2011, Bryant founded Black Girls Code, a training programme that teaches black females, who are in technology and engineering roles, basic programming concepts. Bryant hopes that Black Girls Code will allow young girls, especially those from minority backgrounds, to remain involved and increase awareness in the STEM field.

Black History Month runs until the 31st October, and will celebrate and highlight the achievements and contributions of the black community in the UK. The BHM website contains information, features and events.