Now that Black History month is here, it’s important to celebrate the achievements and positive contributions of African Americans across the world and over the decades, especially in the field of computer science. The field of computer science is often portrayed as white male dominated so it’s even more important to give extra notice to recognize the achievements of black computer scientists.
Starting out early in her childhood, Dr. Elodia Billionniere was intrigued by solving puzzles and actually decided to be a math major with an interest in the actuarial profession. After taking a Java introductory course, she learned her passion for computational thinking and changed over to computer science and math major.
Finishing up undergraduate as a MGE@MSA scholar [Minority Graduate Education at Mountain States Alliance], Dr. Billionniere entered the graduate program at Arizona State and received her master’s degree and doctoral degree.
Currently, Dr. Elodie Billionniere is the program director in Miami Dade College, while teaching computer science and technology courses. She has gained professional experience with web application development, software engineering, data analytics, and quality assurance.
Elodie also divides her time to volunteer at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami as an instructor. She believes it’s important to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields.
According to an interview with Association for Computing Machinery [ACM], they asked her what advice she would give to younger students of color who are interested in entering the computing field. In Elodie’s response, “Confidence is key as people may try to down play your efforts and ideas and sometimes try to take away your shine. Also, a support network is essential to navigate through the profession. Last but not least, take advantage of each opportunity presented as you never know which door will lead you toward your desired goals and dreams.”
Beginning Crawford’s journey into the computer science field, he received his first computer at the age of 13. Soon after, the computer stopped working and for him, money was tight growing up so Chris became determined to fix the computer himself. After successfully reformatting the hard drive and installing a new operating system, Chris loved every minute and decided to continue down the path of technology.
Currently, Chris Crawford is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Alabama. His main focus is working on Brain-Computer Interfaces [BCI], along with Human-Robot Interactions [HRI]. Chris’s main goal is to leverage novel neurophysiological sensing technologies and robotics to create tools and applications that support BRI.
Besides his research with robotics, Chris Crawford also has many projects going on such as Block-Based Interactive EEG Visualization, Brain-Drone Racing, and Tongue Protrusion Detection.
The Brain-Drone race is a competition that uses the cognitive ability and mental endurance of the user. Within this competition, the competitors are required to out-focus the opponents in a drone drag raced fueled by electrical signals emitted from the brain.
Kimberly Bryant is the Founder of a non-profit organization dedicated to introducing young girls of color between the ages of 7 and 17 to the field of computer science, Black Girls CODE. BGC is dedicated to introducing these girls to concentrations in computer programming, along with entrepreneurial concepts.
One of Bryant’s primary reasons for launching BGC is to provide girls of color these opportunities to learn in-demand skills, and to help close the gap on the culturally divide in this field. As Kimberly says in her mission statement on BGC when talking about her own experiences, “But I also recall, as I pursued my studies, feeling culturally isolated: few of my classmates looked like me. While we shared similar aspirations and many good times, there’s much to be said for making any challenging journey with people of the same cultural background.” BGC is definitely helping achieve this goal and has reached over 3000 students.
Kimberly has also been nationally recognized and been awarded the prestigious Jefferson Award for Community Service for her work in supporting communities within the Bay Area. Along with this award, she has been named by Business Insider on its list of “The 25 Most Influential African-Americans in Technology.”
In addition to her non-profit organization, Kimberly has worked in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries as an Engineering Manager in a series of technical leadership roles for various Fortune 100 companies, such as Pfizer. She also serves on the National Champions Board for the national Girls Collaborative Project.