Eagle Fights for Equality through Engineering
Embry-Riddle Aerospace Engineering senior Maverick Thigpen believes in progress. As president of the Prescott Campus National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), that’s the goal he chases every day, in and out of the classroom.
“Black people are severely underrepresented in the STEM industry, leading to a variety of problems,” he said. “These can be hand dryers not recognizing black hands, algorithms hiding black faces and even facial recognition software falsely identifying black people as perpetrators.
That’s why his organization is important, he said: It promotes the development of workers who will one day solve the problems that contribute to systemic racial biases.
“It needs to stop,” said the Missouri City, Texas, native. “By helping other black people gain skills to be even more competitive, I believe I can make a dent. “
Thigpen went to a mostly black high school and was drawn to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University because of its small campuses and specialized fields of study. But on his first days as a freshman, he remembers looking around and feeling out of place.
“It was jarring,” he said. “It made me wonder if I can make it.”
That was until he was approached by the Black Student Alliance and asked to join.
“I immediately felt more accepted,” he said. “And I feel my presence there as an engineer helps other black folks in STEM feel they can do it, too.”
In fact, he now sees that very thing as part of his job as NSBE president, where he works to ease incoming freshmen’s transitions from high school, helps write student resumes and serves as a mentor to any member who needs one.
“It’s about sharing personal experiences and, sometimes, just being a face that says, ‘Hey, I made it despite everything society has against us — and you can, too,’” he said.
Thigpen is a thinker — “Being able to learn the foundations of how the entire world works has easily been the best part of engineering,” he said, when asked what drew him to the field. But he’s also a dreamer.
After graduation, he hopes to work for NASA. He wants to be inspired — and be remembered.
“Hearing news of humanity becoming closer and closer to an interplanetary civilization just fills me with passion and motivation,” he said. “It is my dream to go down in history as somebody who was at the forefront of humanity’s first steps into the solar system and beyond.”
To celebrate Black History Month, the Embry-Riddle News Team will be profiling student leaders throughout February.
Posted In: Engineering