Black History Month: Following childhood aspirations with mechanical and aerospace engineering student and Lane Innovation Hub team member Dre' Hodges
In celebration of Black History Month, the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University is honoring students, alumni and faculty from diverse backgrounds to showcase their successes in engineering and beyond and share how they continue to make a difference in society.
Story by Adrianne Uphold, Graduate Assistant
Dre' Hodges, mechanical and aerospace engineering major and Lane Innovation Hub team member, discovered his passion for robotics in the fourth grade after joining the first Lego Robotics team in Fairmont, West Virginia.
"The Robotics Competition scene in West Virginia has grown exponentially since the help of the NASA Educational Research Center based in Fairmont and I was at the beginning of it all," Hodges said. "I kept doing various robotic competitions through middle school, high school and a little at the college level. With the competitions, I grew a passion of having a problem, finding a solution, brainstorming late at night and building something from the ground up." ;
Hodges stopped competing in robotic competitions when he was 18, but that didn’t stop his family. Hodges' little sister, Dazzellyn, started competing in first level robotics when she was just eight years old. With the help of his parents and other team members’ parents, Hodges took over as head coach for the all-African American girls' robotic team, Robo Magic.
“I loved the game, so being able to take the team from just an idea to registration and eventually competing was a very fun opportunity for me to show underprivileged girls in their youth things in STEM that they normally would not be exposed to,” Hodges said.
Hodges serves as a Statler College Ambassador, and he is the current president of the WVU chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.
"I've been able to help others like me on campus get the resources that they did not think was possible," Hodges said. "As we now are seeing an increase in African American students at Statler College, other NSBE members and myself are creating a community for us by us, as we face the challenges of engineering at a predominantly white institution like the NSBE founders once faced."
Hodges and other NSBE members encourage professional and personal growth among students by inviting collaborative guest speakers to talk about career goals and students' ambitions, and the organization offers resources for Black students navigating the STEM field. Hodges encourages other Black engineers to join NSBE.
“For the African American students that can look around in their classroom and they are the only one in the whole room, we understand,” Hodges said. “I hope more people join NSBE so we can give you the sense of belonging to a group that knows your struggles. We understand you; we’ve already been through everything you are experiencing, we know where the resources are and we know how to get through difficult things, so let’s get through it together.”
For the past two years at the Lane Innovation Hub, Hodges has assisted in completing over 500 projects. With projects ranging from as small as creating 3D printed chess pieces to as large as developing machines like MRIs for the Health Sciences Center, Hodges said he values the variety of work he gets to do.
“Anything and everything happen at the Hub, and that’s the beauty of the job,” Hodges said. “Every day we have no idea what could walk through the door when we get to work. You don’t know what student, professor, or someone from outside of the Statler College will come up with. Taking someone from an idea to a functioning prototype is rewarding.”
Hodges was inspired to choose engineering because of his parents and other leading Black engineers like Lonnie Jonson, Walter Braithwaite and Katherine Johnson.
"Without my parents wanting to give me better opportunities than what they grew up with, I would not be where I am today," Hodges said. "Others like Lonnie Johnson, Walter Braithwaite, Katherine Johnson, and other trailblazing African-American engineers inspired me as well. Without them facing adversity and still being giants in the field, myself and others would not be sitting in engineering classrooms.”
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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