Buckeyes helping prepare Black engineers for aerospace careers
In 2004 the National Society of Black Engineers launched a special interest group focused on space, which in 2016 became the NSBE Aerospace Special Interest Group (NSBE-ASIG). Since 2015, two Buckeye engineers have been instrumental in planning the group’s activity and maximizing its impact.
Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor of Practice Russell K. Marzette, Jr., is the group’s deputy director, while distinguished alumnus Ernest Levert, a Lockheed Martin technical fellow, serves as its chief technology officer.
One of 11 NSBE special interest groups, it prepares and serves black engineers to succeed in industry or academia, with four focus areas: research, outreach, policy advocacy and technical development.
Each fall, Marzette, Levert and the other group leaders organize a technical forum covering topics relevant to professional and student members. This year’s virtual conference featured another Buckeye engineer as a keynote speaker, Senior Associate Dean and Aerospace Engineering Professor John Horack.
The group has initiated a number of small, targeted research projects to help engage both students and professionals alike in opportunities to impact the aerospace industry. Projects range from concepts for lunar rovers to development of spaceports in Africa. Their “Arusha Rover Deployable Medical Workstation” concept paper is available online, and Marzette has integrated it into student capstone projects he advises.
Marzette explained that the group’s research activity is also a gateway for its outreach efforts. “Group members connect the research to what we're doing at our universities or organizations. And we carve out sections of the research projects that allow pre-college students to engage as well.”
The NSBE Aerospace group also recently launched an internship program, currently supporting six students from around the country. Development of the program was accelerated when NSBE-ASIG leadership learned of students losing summer internship opportunities due to the pandemic.
The group’s advocacy efforts are driven by its presence at conferences that impact aerospace policy or legislation, like the Space Legislative Blitz, AIAA's Advocate for Aerospace on Capitol Hill and Ohio Aerospace Day. Their recent technical forum also included public policy discussions to provide members opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge in this increasingly important area. On November 13, NSBE Aerospace SIG Director Enanga Daisy Fale was a panelist in the closing webinar of Ohio State’s Global Conference on Diversity in Aviation, Aerospace and STEM.
Marzette earned his BS and MS in mechanical engineering from the University of the Pacific and Georgia Tech, respectively. Prior to his arrival at Ohio State in 2016, he was a research scientist with Battelle for eight years. His teaching emphasis is in the area of mechanical design as well as continued development of the capstone program curriculum. His current research interests include additive manufacturing applications in aerospace, health and life sciences, and electromechanical systems.
“Space has always inspired me as an engineer from the days of the space shuttle, when I was in grade school until today,” Marzette said. “Though never my industry per se, aerospace has been sprinkled throughout my career since grad school, and especially now.”
As part of its 10-year strategic plan launched in 2016, NSBE has set a primary goal of increasing the annual number of Black engineering bachelor’s degree recipients from 3,620 to 10,000 by 2025. Three years into the plan, a record 4,544 Black students earned degrees in engineering in the U.S., a 30% increase since 2014. Marzette is a member of the NSBE Strategy Planning Task Force, and Special Projects Appointee for Operations and Development for all NSBE special interest groups. He believes they each are instrumental in achieving the organization’s 2025 goal.
“It is important that we produce engineers that are technically competent, able to contribute to the discipline, and understand and can influence the impact of that contribution. This is the NSBE mission,” said Marzette.
Marzette wants to increase the Ohio State presence in the NSBE Aerospace special interest group even more. He encourages undergraduate and graduate students and faculty to reach out to him to get involved.