By: Meriden Vitale
Photos by: Saba Moallem
When Quentin Onyemordi reflects on his time at Oregon State University, he seems genuinely impressed by how far he’s come on his journey as an engineer.
“From the moment I came to school, I was definitely interested in engineering, but I didn’t have the technical knowledge,” he said. “Every year, I’ve added new milestones in that regard and taken some big steps toward becoming an engineer. The entire learning experience has been amazing.”
Onyemordi, now in his fourth year in electrical and computer engineering, joined the National Society of Black Engineers during his first year. He has enjoyed the wide range of experiences and networking opportunities NSBE offers — from conferences with engineering experts to community outreach with schoolchildren — as well as the group’s focus on personal growth and the technical aspects of engineering. During his second year, he became chapter secretary and traveled with the group to Los Angeles to tour Boeing — an opportunity he cherished for the chance to see what life is like for engineers in the field.
Onyemordi is now chapter president this year, and he’s looking forward to creating opportunities to connect with elementary and middle school students, hopefully in person.
“We want to help minority students understand that engineering is definitely a possibility for them,” he said. “We had big plans last year, to get more involved in the community, but it’s been difficult with COVID.”
Onyemordi’s personal plans for the past year also shifted because of the pandemic. He ended up returning home to Canada, visiting Corvallis briefly in spring term to participate in his junior-year capstone project. Inspired by the needs of the pandemic, he’s been working on a contactless temperature sensor that can wirelessly transmit data.
“I really enjoy working with microcontrollers to accomplish a variety of common tasks,” he said. “In the device I’m now working on, the microcontroller is able to read the data and send it immediately to a spreadsheet on my laptop, so I can document all the temperatures that have been recorded in the last 24 hours.”
Another crucial component of Onyemordi’s engineering journey has been the Distinguished Scholars Initiative, a program that provides community, fellowship, and mentorship for men of color studying at Oregon State. Since his first year, Onyemordi’s involvement with DSI has created a sense of community and provided a place to have serious conversations as well as fun group outings. He’s found mentors who have helped him navigate university life and put him on the path toward engineering success.
This past summer, he completed an internship with TRC, a leading global consulting, engineering, and construction management firm. As an energy efficiency engineering intern, Onyemordi provided technical and analytical support for the firm’s energy efficiency programs, focusing on energy retrofits for multifamily housing.
“I was frequently in contact with TRC’s engineers on the post-installation and verification teams and those conversations propelled the interest I have in power engineering and energy efficiency,” he said. “I hope to act on these interests more in the upcoming summer and gain more technical experience to build on the fundamentals that I have acquired from this past internship.”
Onyemordi learned about TRC through his involvement in Emerging Leaders PDX, which has the goal of improving the racial and cultural diversity in leadership at companies in and around Portland by matching college students and recent graduates from underrepresented populations with paid internships at top companies throughout the metro area.
He also says he’s grateful for the networking and the mentoring he received through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and acknowledges its impact on his time at Oregon State and his journey as an engineer.
“LSAMP and my mentors are a huge part of the foundation that has set me up for success,” Onyemordi said. “Last year I got to serve as a mentor and hopefully will next year as well. Coming in as an out-of-country student, I didn’t even know a single person in the state of Oregon. I want to help new students navigate that transition and encourage them to get involved on campus. It will take their college experience to another level.”