Published: Nov. 3, 2016

Yohannese Gebremedhin, right,  and Arthur Antoine, left, stand in front of a tree and sandstone buildings in a courtyard on the University of Colorado campus.

Arthur Antoine (left) and Yohannese Gebremedhin (right) have key leadership roles in the 2016 fall regional conference of the National Society of Black Engineers in Denver. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

A shared passion has led two engineering students to organize a regional conference that has attracted hundreds of people.

Yohannese Gebremedhin and Arthur Antoine organized the 2016 National Society of Black Engineers’ (NSBE) Fall Region 6 Conference, “Engineering Your Foundation,” to be held Nov. 4–6 at the Westin Downtown Denver. More than 240 people have registered to date. All are welcome, and registration and an entrance fee are required.

“Arthur and I value the NSBE mission statement,” said Gebremedhin, who is the CU Boulder NSBE chapter president. “That’s what brings us together.”

NSBE is a student-governed, nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members in the U.S. and abroad, including about 30 active members in the CU Boulder chapter. It strives to recruit and retain young students of color majoring in engineering and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, but is open to all.

Gebremedhin, who is Ethiopian and grew up in Denver and Aurora, and Antoine, who grew up on the island of St. Lucia, first crossed paths through CU Boulder’s African Students’ Association (ASA) and the Caribbean Students Alliance of Boulder (CSAB).  In February they collaborated as organizers/facilitators for a workshop called  "Student Voices at CU: What Racial and Ethnic Inclusion Means for Our Campus," funded by the Ethnic and Minority Affairs Committee (EMAC).

Gebremedhin later applied to the NSBE regional board and was selected to be the Region 6 conference planning chairman. He then turned to Antoine and asked him to be vice chairman on the conference planning committee.

“I only felt comfortable with someone who was battle-tested,” Gebremedhin said. “It wasn’t a difficult decision.”

Antoine said Gebremedhin is not only passionate about promoting engineering at a grassroots level, he’s also reliable.

“We know how to work together,” Antoine said.

A huge responsibility

Gebremedhin is responsible for overseeing the entire conference, and Antoine found and booked the conference presenters. Their work sometimes involves conference calls with 20 student organizers on the other end of the line from across California, Colorado, Washington and Arizona.

Antoine is a doctoral candidate in construction engineering and management, and Gebremedhin is finishing his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Both say organizing this event has tested their time-management skills and has taught them how to plan and manage a large-scale event.

“We buy into the NSBE mission,” Antoine said. “Our passion drives us to try to make it the best conference possible.”  

Gebremedhin’s passion is to engage young engineering and STEM students. It was fueled in part by teaching Denver elementary school students about engineering topics and seeing first-hand the impact building a community can have. He worked two summers in Denver with the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) educational program, which is led by NSBE students and technical professionals who want to give back to the community.

Gebremedhin said for him it’s about giving back to his Denver roots.

“I feel great pride in my community and being in the role of a mentor,” Gebremedhin said.

It’s the same pride he holds for the regional conference.

“I’m in my community,” Gebremedhin said.  “It’s in my backyard.”

The local NSBE chapter also will host a talk with NSBE executive director, Karl Reid, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9, discussing how college students can be successful. The event is free and open to all CU Boulder students, faculty and staff.

If you go

What: Karl Reid, NSBE executive director, “Working Smarter, Not Just Harder: Strategies for Achieving Success in College.” 
When: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Where: Discovery Learning Center, Engineering Center
Etc.: Open to all

If you go

What: National Society of Black Engineers' (NSBE) fall regional conference, “Engineering Your Foundation.”
Where: Westin Denver Downtown, 1672 Lawrence St., Denver
When: Nov. 4–6  
Cost: $80 for college students and $40–$150 for others, depending on affiliation. Online registration and onsite registration available. 
Etc.: CU Boulder chapter of NSBE  The event includes a career fair comprised of companies, government agencies, small businesses, colleges and universities
looking to recruit top engineering talent.