UB's BEAM Wins U.S. Labor Department Award

Program has motivated thousands of minority engineers and scientists

Release Date: October 28, 2008

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Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness for Minorities, annual sponsor of the high school summer activities at UB, is one of just two national winners of the U.S. Department of Labor's 2008 Exemplary Public Interest Contribution Award.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The U.S. Department of Labor has selected the University at Buffalo's Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness for Minorities (BEAM) as a winner of the 2008 Exemplary Public Interest Contribution (EPIC) Award for promoting equal employment opportunity.

UB's BEAM was one of just two non-profit organizations in the nation that were honored with this award by the Department of Labor.

"As an original founding partner of BEAM, the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences takes great pride in the program's outreach to Buffalo-area minorities that encourages and partially prepares the minority youth to consider technical careers," said Harvey G. Stenger, Jr., Ph.D., dean of UB Engineering. "We take this national, prestigious award as recognition and affirmation of BEAM's success."

Headquartered in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, BEAM is a cooperative educational enrichment program that has been helping prepare teen women and minority youth for careers in science, engineering and architecture.

To date, it has worked with more than 10,000 Western New York middle school and high school students who have been motivated to pursue science and engineering degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

BEAM graduates include Western New York engineers and scientists at the top of their fields, employed in technical positions at corporations and government agencies that include Fisher-Price, General Mills, General Motors, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration and Northrup Grumman, among many others, according to Marilyn Helenbrook, BEAM executive director.

"The department chose Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness for Minorities, Inc., from a field of very impressive nominees," stated Charles E. James, Sr., deputy assistant secretary at the Office of Federal Contract Compliance of the U.S. Department of Labor. He said that BEAM has made "commendable contributions to equal employment opportunity."

Helenbrook and members of the BEAM advisory board attended the award ceremony in Washington, D.C., where she accepted the award from Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

Founded in 1982, BEAM was one of the region's earliest programs dedicated to stimulating interest in engineering among middle school and high school students.

It grew out of a summer program designed to boost math, science and computer skills among high school students from underrepresented groups that was initiated by George C. Lee, Ph.D., now SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

As Lee sought to expand the effort, he developed a partnership between the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Linde Division of Union Carbide, now Praxair, representatives from the Buffalo Public Schools and members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, an African-American professional men's fraternity.

Since its establishment, students throughout Western New York have been interacting with BEAM, working on intensive hands-on science, math and computer projects at afterschool clubs, Saturday academies, summer programs and career days.

Activities are designed to enrich students by exposing them to technical- and engineering-related careers and improving their levels of technology literacy.

Programs start with seventh graders and continue until high school graduation. The most ambitious of the students have an opportunity to spend a summer conducting research with a UB professor.

Fisher-Price, LPCiminelli, DuPont, General Motors, Moog and other Western New York corporations, as well as numerous engineering firms, are closely involved, helping provide instruction to BEAM students at UB and participating in career days and the BEAM annual senior dinner.

Funding for BEAM is made possible through the support of companies, educational institutions, community organizations and individuals. For more information about BEAM, go to http://www.eng.buffalo.edu/beam/.

Founded in 1946, the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has 150 faculty members and an enrollment of more than 2,300 students. UB Engineering offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in six departments. The school's annual research expenditures are approximately $50 million; its per-faculty research expenditure puts it in the top 10 percent of U.S. engineering schools, according to data from the National Science Foundation. UB Engineering works with corporate partners in a variety of ways ranging from joint research ventures, to continuing education, to co-op work arrangements for students.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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