Black Engineers TodayBraxton Jenkins
Braxton Jenkins is a junior studying mechanical engineering at Valporaiso University in Indiana. He is specifically interested in the study of energy and desires to innovate solar panels, installing them in underserved communities in Chicago. He is a member of Valpo’s Christ College Honor’s Program.
Braxton’s dad enrolled him in an engineering program when he was in middle school. The experience challenged him and got him thinking about a future in the engineering field. Braxton was further challenged in high school to consider his role in the care of the environment, as well as socio-economic and race issues and the disparities both had wrought in his community. He entered college with the desire to study engineering and make a difference in underserved communities of color.
Braxton had the privilege of serving in several different countries throughout his college career with an organization called WAVES, including Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The purpose of his summer internship in 2019 was to evaluate dysfunctional residential solar panel systems in a rural, indigenous community in El Cacao, Nicaragua. He researched how components of solar systems work and what causes their failures, preparing a presentation that will be used to explain why the systems are failing and viable options to install more sustainable solar systems.
Braxton is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and is the Treasurer for the NSBE Chapter at Valpo.
Braxton’s first piece of advice to students of color is to go into a field of study with a plan or goal in mind. During his time studying engineering, Braxton says, “I’ve been kicked down, then kicked down again. I’ve learned that if you want to achieve something, you have to see yourself in a position of success and then work to achieve it.” Braxton’s second piece of advice is to surround yourself with people who will encourage you to keep going, not just mentally but also logistically. People who will ask, “How are you going to keep going?” One practical way Braxton does this is by meeting weekly with his academic professor from Freshman year.
Read about Braxton's summer internship experience HERE.
Braxton grew up in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago and is a graduate of George Westinghouse College Prep , a Chicago Public Schools Selective Enrollment School. While at Westinghouse, Braxton participated in the The Northwestern Medicine Scholars program, which is designed to provide outstanding Westinghouse students enriching experiences to explore and be better prepared for careers in medicine and biomedical sciences. Students have the opportunity to learn from the country's leading physicians at a premier academic medical center.
Now Westinghouse also offers the FH Paschen Engineering Scholars program where students get a behind-the-scenes look at civil engineering and construction in Chicago. This highly-selective three-year program provides students summer internships, course work at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and construction site visits throughout the year.