February 12, 2016
NSBE Students Explore Innovation in the Auto Industry


MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Martinsville-Henry County students within the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) recently partnered with Dan River Year AmeriCorps at New College Institute (NCI) to present at the SAE International Government/Industry Meeting in Washington, DC. 


According to their website, “SAE International is a global body of scientists, engineers, and practitioners that advances self-propelled vehicle and system knowledge in a neutral forum for the benefit of society.”


Students representing Martinsville High School (MHS) and our community at this event included Rayshaun Gravely, Luis Romero, Dustin Staples, and Julian Vaughn. During their trip, these students attended workshops and participated in a large networking event for students and professionals within the automobile industry.


During the networking reception, professionals were encouraged to visit with student groups to learn about their team projects and offer advice on technical issues. Attending students were allowed to choose from a list of projects provided by SAE International. MHS students made presentations concerning their chosen experiments: creating a fuel cell car and a motorized toy car. The fuel cell car, developed by Gravely and Romero, was powered by distilled water and two batteries. The motorized toy car, designed by Staples and Vaughn, required the use of gears and an AC adapter to create an electric-powered prototype.


For Romero, this experience was very helpful because he “met with engineers that had worked on project similar to the motorized toy car project, so they were able to provide helpful insights.”


Gravely shared that he learned much about patience and research in the development of the fuel cell car, particularly from a mentor, Princeton Gravely, NSBE alumni member from MHS.


Through this experience, the students gained insights into the challenges faced by professionals within the automobile industry as they seek to develop vehicles powered by alternative energy sources. Gravely feels that the future of the car industry will revolve around electric power, but realizes that “engineers are still perfecting this process.”


These students were selected to attend as a result of their involvement with the MHS chapter of NSBE, the National Society for Black Engineers, under the direction of Helen Howell. The students have been involved with this extra-curricular club since middle school.


Students from MHS were among the first to ever attend this SAE International event in 2012. Since then, 22 MHS students have attended, including both males and females.


In addition to the SAE Government/Industry meeting, students were invited to attend the Washington Auto Show, which featured new models and concepts from various automakers around the globe.


“After designing our small-scale models, seeing the large-scale versions makes you think about all the hard work and research that must have went into these real-world models,” shared Romero.


Howell, a retired educator and current AmeriCorps service member at NCI, is excited to facilitate such a great learning opportunity for local students. “These students are very serious-minded and willing to put forth the effort to do a good job. I’m so proud of them,” shared Howell. 


Photo caption: Students from Martinsville High School recently presented their automobile engineering design concepts at SAE International in Washington D.C. through a partnership with Dan River Year AmeriCorps at New College Institute. Pictured (left to right): Luis Romero, Dustin Staples, Helen Howell, and Rayshaun Gravely. Not pictured: Julian Vaughn.