Engineering students have long known that Mizzou Engineering is home to some of the very best student organizations on campus, and the 2018 Chancellor’s Excellence Awards helped cement that fact.
The Mizzou chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) claimed Most Outstanding Large Organization honors, and Mizzou Students’ Underwater Robotics Foundation (SURF) nabbed the title of Best New Organization at the Chancellor’s Excellence Awards in April.
For NSBE, this latest accolade caps a phenomenal calendar year. The organization was named Most Improved at the 2017 Chancellor’s Excellence Awards, then landed Region V Medium Sized Chapter of the Year and the National T.O.R.C.H. (Technical Outreach and Community Help) Chapter of the Year at the NSBE Annual Conference. Meanwhile, Nosakhare Eke (Region V Regional Chairperson) and Danae Nash (Region V Missouri Zone Chairperson) were elected to prestigious regional leadership positions.
“It shows we’ve had a lot of growth the last couple of years, especially seeing how we went from most improved to most outstanding,” Mizzou NSBE President Walta Abraham said.
“To know that so many organizations applied for (most outstanding large organization) and that we were able to win shows that we’re not only benefitting our members, but having an impact on the community as well.”
Abraham pointed out that NSBE’s community outreach, including hosting its first annual “A Walk for Education,” to increase awareness of educational opportunities in STEM fields and establishing a NSBE Jr. chapter at Hickman High School and mentoring the organization as it elected its first executive board, were key. And perhaps most importantly, the group managed to pull off tremendous outreach initiatives while also maintaining a high level in terms of educational and professional development opportunities for its own members.
“That’s a really big thing, being able to help the community while of course still being able to impact our own members and engaging other organizations on campus, too,” Abraham explained.
Mizzou SURF had quite the year, too. The organization, which focuses on both automated and remote-control underwater robotics, was founded about a year ago and has been formally recognized by the MU campus for less than a year. And SURF has turned plenty of heads in that short time, including being selected to participate in Legislative Day in Jefferson City and landing a $10,000 grant from the NASA Missouri Space Grant Consortium.
“I brought it to a guy named Trent Tolliver, one of my friends I’ve taken classes with, and since I’d been a student officer in other orgs, I thought why not keep the train rolling?” SURF co-president Sean Murray said.
“One of the requirements to be a new org at Mizzou was to have something that nobody else had. So, we found underwater robotic submarines, whether they be automated or remote control, and we thought it was legit.”
So, Murray and SURF leadership began recruiting through the Mizzou chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, then branched out to recruit all manner of engineering students, with several from the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department as well as Information Technology joining up to help cover large programming projects. SURF also landed instructor Josiah Bryan as faculty adviser, which Murray credited as a key to the organization’s success.
SURF has participated in several competition events, worked on a variety of underwater robotics projects and also partnered to mentor students from Field Elementary in Columbia on their duct-tape engineering projects.
Beyond the great recruitment numbers and tremendous work done both in house and in terms of outreach, Murray said he’s also proud of the makeup of SURF membership, both in terms of discipline and diversity.
“It’s the diversity of what we have,” he explained. “We have two female officers, a lot of female members, a lot of underrepresented minority members. And they’ve exploded. And I can only hope it picks up momentum.”