By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public AffairsFebruary 5, 2018
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Researchers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory West, in Los Angeles, recently participated in the Young Men of Color Conference at Loyola Marymount University.
The students were from area Southern California middle and high schools.
Sponsored by the 100 Black Men of Los Angeles non-profit organization, the one-day event-themed Real Men Giving Real Time-mentored and provided workshops for the nearly 250 attendees, helping them learn the importance of building strong character and good decision making.
ARL West Drs. Peter Khooshabehadeh and Oluseyi Ayorinde attended the event and provided insight into Army research. As invited guests, they spoke to the students about their experiences in college, graduate school and in their professions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
Khooshabehadeh gave an overview of the various disciplines that contribute to the ARL West focus on human and information interaction research. He discussed the discipline of the cognitive sciences, which he said is at the intersection of computer science and psychology.
"Drawing on scientific methods from multiple disciplines informs our research from several different perspectives," Khooshabehadeh said. "Similarly, having diversity among our workforce can benefit the research process because team members bring their own unique way of thinking about, and solving difficult research problems."
The researchers also provided an overview of the Army Education Outreach Program and shared opportunities available at ARL West.
Ayorinde said having the opportunity to help the young men is rewarding.
"This was huge for me personally. Growing up, outside from my father (who has a PhD in civil engineering and an MBA) and other members of my family, I had no exposure to black men in science," Ayorinde. "While it's nice to hear that you can be whoever you want to be, and do whatever you want to do, it helps to be able to envision yourself at that goal, that finishing point. A lot of the kids that come to these outreach events only see people who look like them in sports and entertainment, and I look forward to any opportunity where I can show kids 'Hey, there are black scientists too.'"
Ayorinde said the boys asked "perceptive" questions.
"I remember one student specifically asked 'What classes should I be looking to take now to prepare myself to do research in the future?' Questions like that show that these kids really are thinking about their futures, and realize that STEM education can provide wonderful opportunities down the line," commented Ayorinde. "We also had one group of middle school students who were coming up with incredibly challenging battlefield scenarios. While it is not what we came to discuss, it was great to see how imaginative and excited the kids were to be at a STEM event on a Saturday morning!"
After the outreach sessions, Khooshabehadeh said one of the school's teachers told them the main impression many of the students have had about the military is what they see on TV and in movies, so it was refreshing for them to see there are multi-disciplinary scientists and engineers who also contribute to national defense.
"It wasn't just about STEM, although that had a strong emphasis. It was also about how to be a good man and a good citizen," Ayorinde said. "At one point, they called up all of the men in the room who were members of historically black fraternities to come up and introduce themselves."
As a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Ayorinde joined the other men and introduced himself to the group.
"All of us at the front were lawyers, doctors, researchers and professionals," stated Ayorinde. "Dr. Walker, who organized the event, and is also a fraternity member, wanted to highlight the correlation between joining one of these organizations and high achievement."
Khooshabehadeh and Ayorinde found the event rewarding and stressed the importance of ARL to continue its outreach activities, particularly now that researchers are in new areas with ARL's extended sites.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.