Six engineers from Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) were recognized with the 2021 Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) in the Modern-Day Technology Leader and the Science Spectrum Trailblazers categories, the U.S. Black Engineer Magazine recently announced.
The BEYA Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Conference is a yearly conference celebrating the outstanding achievements of Black engineers, as well as connecting students and professionals in the STEM field.
NSWCPD’s winners will be honored during the 2021 BEYA STEM Virtual Conference on Feb. 12, 2021. These awards are granted to individuals in the STEM workforce with the nominations reviewed and recommended for an award by a panel of leaders from industry, government, and academia.
While this was the first BEYA award for all of the Command’s 2021 winners, NSWCPD has recruited at the STEM conference for years. Science Spectrum Trailblazer award winner Yaseen Farooq, NSWCPD’s Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) program manager, recruited Modern-Day Technology Leader winner Fred Williams, Logistics Product Readiness data manager, during the 2017 conference.
“This award kind of brings things full-circle for me. I was attending the conference with a friend and had a few job offers on the table, but I was approached by Yaseen, and after talking to him I changed my plans and accepted a position at NSWCPD,” Williams said. “The importance of the event is to highlight Black excellence in STEM and the accomplishments of other Black engineers.”
Williams has spent his three-year career modernizing and creating more efficient tools from the Command’s Reference Desk, providing engineering and logistics support to the fleet, and implementing automated processes, thus saving time and increasing accountability across the Command.
Beyond his accomplishments at NSWCPD, Williams volunteers as a mentor for several STEM programs, facilitates workshops for college students, and recruits for the Command.
“I’m starting down the path of being a role model and I want to help others achieve success in their fields and mentor students who haven’t found one yet,” Williams said.
Farooq, who won the Science Spectrum Trailblazer award after 5 years of recruiting at BEYA, was recognized for his work on the college recruitment team and his role in enhancing the Command’s diversity. He has served as chairperson for the Command’s Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee, is actively involved with the Survey Committee for the NSWCPD Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) Organizational Climate Survey (DEOCS), and is an active member of the NSWCPD African American Employee Resource Group (AAERG).
“It is an honor to me to be recognized by BEYA and nominated by Philly,” Farooq said. “I’ve always wanted to win an award from BEYA; they are an organization I have a lot of respect for.”
The Science Spectrum Trailblazer award honors “men and women actively creating new paths for others in science, research, technology, and development … they distinguish themselves by constantly setting their sights higher, striving to innovate and open doors for others.”
Farooq was nominated for the award, in part, for his passion for volunteering in STEM outreach programs and his outreach efforts with local schools, as well as for his role mentoring students in NSWCPD’s internship programs.
“I volunteer because I want to give back and define direction to our youth. I was encouraged to try STEM and I found my passion. I want to be that person to bring the next generation into STEM,” Farooq said.
Modern Day Technology Leaders are defined by BEYA as, “professionals shaping the future of engineering, science, and technology.” Chedric Waters, NSWCPD’s Ship Controls: Surface Combatants branch head and Modern-Day Technology Leader award winner, defines it as, “an individual that can remain fluent and competent with the times, and someone that can navigate and bridge the gap between the generations. There are currently three generations in the workforce with three different mentalities and work ethics. Bridging those gaps and staying fluent and competent in all the tools available will bring success.”
As work has been forced to go digital since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic Waters has lead his team while continuing to provide mission-critical services to the Ship Control Systems encompassing multiple combatant ship classes. His leadership of his branch has resulted in a safer and more reliable fleet.
“It is extremely humbling to be acknowledged for impacting those around me,” Waters said. “Being recognized by my supervisors and peers is an indescribable feeling.”
Chelsea Kpodi, Littoral Combat Ship Machinery Control Systems Lead Systems Engineer and Modern-Day Technology Leader Award winner, has spent her career implementing lean processes and increasing accountability in her branch and across the Command.
In her current role she is responsible for implementing System Engineering Processes to manage risk, cost, and effort for LCS Freedom and Independence Class Control System programs and projects. She helps establish and execute goals for the program while providing reliable support for the Sailors.
Kpodi has developed automated tools using NSWCPD’s collaborative digital environment and has enhanced accountability through improving systems, processes, and metrics tracking.
“I’m proud to be a front runner in Code 50 (Cybersecure Hull, Mechanical & Engineering Control Systems & Networks Department) using existing tools and finding new ways to use them. We have a lot of processes here so I’ve spent my career becoming an expert for these in my team,” Kpodi said. “BEYA’s message resonates very deeply with me as a Black woman, I hope to further promote STEM to minorities.”
Jabril Muhammad, Sonar Dome Pressurization System In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA) and Science Spectrum Trailblazer award winner is a member of the NSWCPD Strategic Team where he focuses on STEM and Vice-Chairperson, Co-Chairperson, and Outreach Committee Chairperson for NSWCPD’s AAERG.
Muhammad has been instrumental in several projects resulting in a safer, more reliable fleet. His support of the Chilled Water System and Electro-Mechanical Actuator Team resolved obsolescence issues across several surface ship classes. As the Sonar Dome Pressurization System inspector for the Inspection and Survey teams, he uncovered potential risks and helped plan the timely delivery of replacement parts to keep the inspection timeline on track. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Muhammad has continued his crucial role as an ISEA, finding new ways to provide support to the Sailors remotely.
Muhammad’s passion for STEM and outreach shines through in his role on the NSWCPD recruitment team and has helped define the Command’s outreach, recruiting, and onboarding strategies.
“This award lets me know that there is so much more to be done. People have done so much for me that it gives me great inspiration to give back and to chart a course and lead,” Muhammad said. “It let me know that I’m on the right track in doing what I love in STEM.”
Taylor Jánae Million, DDG Modernization Back Fit Project Lead and Modern-Day Technology Leader award winner, has only been with NSWCPD since September 2019, but has immediately made an impact on the DDG-51 Integrated Bridge Control Program.
She implemented a new Scrum agile framework for the DDG-51 Systems Engineering Process and Software Delivery process that increased efficiency and accountability by effectively tracking deliverables and productivity metrics. This new process reduced the team’s time inefficacies generating thousands of dollars in savings with each delivery.
“Being a modern day technology leader means a lot personally. I’ve always aspired to innovate. I’ve always had a passion for creation. This really reinforces that passion of mine to find different ways to pursue continuous improvement,” Million said.
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,700 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.