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Robert Morris University

Afrofuturism and Engineering

2018 was a fun year for engineering management professor Woodrow Winchester III for two reasons: the blockbuster “Black Panther” and the National Society of Black Engineers annual conference in Pittsburgh.

Afrofuturism and Engineering

“I want to help the next generation of engineers approach technology design and development in a more inclusive manner such that its full potential can be realized by all.”

The box office success of “Black Panther” this year was exciting for engineering management professor Woodrow W . Winchester III, and not just because he is a science fiction buff. Winchester referenced the film in an article, “Afrofuturism, Inclusion, and the Design Imagination,” published in Interactions, a journal of the Association for Computing Machinery. The piece focused on how Afrofuturism as depicted in the film can encourage human-centered design methods to offer more inclusive concepts for technologies. For example, Winchester proposed new concepts for wearable fitness trackers such as Fitbits, which some studies have shown make more errors reading data like heart rate when worn by someone with darker skin.

As the advisor of the RMU student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, Winchester says he wants “to help the next generation of engineers approach technology design and development in a more inclusive manner such that its full potential can be realized by all.” The student group works on projects such as creating a phone case using 3D printers, and Winchester also offers professional motivation and support. “You have that one person to fall back on who’s not overbearing and lets us take the lead in our work, but never lets us fall short either,” says Daniela Nkama, president of the student chapter.

This year the National Society of Black Engineers held its 44th annual convention in Pittsburgh, and Winchester brought his students to the event. Students also attended the BNY Mellon Signature Leadership Forum Impact Event to kick off the conference, where they networked with peers and company executives.

“What makes Dr. Winchester such an exceptional advisor is his desire to help each member of the chapter develop themselves personally and professionally,”says Nolen Keeys ‘18, a former chapter member now working on his master ’s in biomedical engineering at CMU. “He’s the catalyst NSBE needed to increase our on-campus impact and involvement, both in the community and nationally.”