Alumni, current students, and faculty inspire visiting middle-schoolers

group of minority middle school students in classroom

Middle school students at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, in Windsor, Connecticut, spend their days immersed in a variety of specialized classes that introduce them to engineering and help them to develop rigorous problem-solving skills, persistence, and an appreciation for teamwork. Before they visited Brooklyn last month however, few had ever seen anything quite like Tandon’s audio lab, motion capture studio, or MakerSpace.

At the invitation of Assistant Dean for Opportunity Programs and Director of the TRIO Scholars Program Nicole Johnson, the boys, all from groups underrepresented in the STEM fields, were treated not only to a tour of Tandon facilities, but a discussion and networking session with a panel that, as one attendee described it, “looked a lot like them.”

Gerry Dawes (’84EE ’89EE) — the Director of Business Ethics and Compliance at Con Edison and a former president of the Polytechnic Institute Alumni Association (PIAA) — stressed to the group that it was invaluable to have the chance to interact with the members of the panel, who included Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Andre Taylor, renowned for his development of new types of fuel cells, batteries, and solar cells, who also arranged for a tour of his lab. “There’s an old saying that you don’t know what you don’t know,” Dawes cautioned. “So introduce yourselves, ask us questions, and really listen to the answers.”

Dawes, an involved alum who regularly participates in Tandon events, encouraged his co-worker and fellow alum Kevin Bishop (‘11EE) to join in the panel as well. As a first-generation college student, Bishop had been involved in the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering and had served as a tutor at the Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center. “I’m standing on the shoulders of the people who mentored me, and now I want to do the same for others,” he said. “It’s our responsibility as people of color to build a bridge so the next generation can cross.”  

The panel also included numerous students from a variety of majors who vividly remembered their own middle-school years, and the advice flew: Love cars and skateboards? Consider mechanical engineering! Taking a class on Vex Robotics? Try out Lego Mindstorms too.

Seventh-grader Shamany Chang, who enthusiastically listened throughout, asserted that he would definitely be following through and might even consider applying to Tandon in a few years. “I’m really interested in robotics,” he said, “and I can tell there would be a lot of opportunities to explore that here.”


  • Kevin L Bishop (Alum)
  • Gerald Dawes (Alum)
  • Amakoe Gbedemah (Faculty)
  • Andrew Hampton (Student)
  • Ifeoluwa Lawal (Alum)
  • Curtis Robert Rodriguez Quamina (Student)
  • Jorge Quintana (Student)
  • Andre Taylor (Faculty)