INDIANAPOLIS (March 31, 2021) — Carlotta Berry, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, will receive the TechPoint Foundation for Youth Bridge Builder Award during TechPoint’s 22nd annual Mira Awards gala on April 22, honoring the best of tech in Indiana.
Dr. Berry is a highly regarded, internationally known engineering and robotics expert who is a vocal and relentless STEM education advocate, especially for underrepresented students like she was entering college in the late 1980s.
The Bridge Builder Award recognizes visionary leaders who are helping underserved student populations in Indiana gain access to experiential learning opportunities that inspire the pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“I was honestly shocked when George Giltner, President and CEO at TechPoint Foundation for Youth, called to tell me a couple of weeks ago” that she had won the award, Berry said. “We have spoken several times over the years since I met him at the 2014 FIRST Crossroads Regional. I assumed he was calling to ask for volunteers to help with some of the TP4Y initiatives. In the past, I helped him recruit diverse speakers and mentors through Black in Engineering and Black in Robotics and Rose-Hulman alumni.”
Berry said she was likely chosen for the honor “because I have a heart and passion for service. In particular, my mission is to diversify STEM so that the profession reflects the world we live in. Engineers solve problems to improve the world. Diverse and multidisciplinary teams come up with better solutions. Their products are more appropriate for a wider swath of demographics. I use robotics to bring people to STEM and bring STEM to people. To eliminate bias and inequity in robotics and artificial intelligence, we need people of all races, genders, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds in the room contributing to the conversation.”
Her approach to working with students is simple: “My vision as an educator is to be the type of professor that I always wished I had,” said Berry. “I bring my whole self to the classroom or the workshop or to any interaction that I have with students. I want them to know that I value them as an individual and I am interested in them as a whole person. This means that sometimes we may need to step back from the learning objectives and discuss what is going on personally. I know I have done my job well when a student tells me I made an impact on their life no matter what their performance was in my course. I know I am doing something right when students from my first ever class in 2003 still interact with me on social media and tell me I was their favorite professor.”
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Berry worked with colleagues around the world to start two new non-profit organizations, Black In Engineering and Black In Robotics. Both organizations have a mission to bring awareness to systemic racism and inequity in STEM, build community, advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and connect with allies and sponsors.
Her research interests are in robotics education, interface design, human-robot interaction, and increasing diverse representation in STEM fields. She has a special passion for diversifying the engineering profession by encouraging historically marginalized and minoritized populations to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Berry, who will mark her 15th year at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology later this year, is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, where she helped create the first multidisciplinary minor in robotics at the institute. She is the co-founder and co-director of the National Science Foundation-funded Rose Building Undergraduate Diversity program, which is lovingly referred to at the institute as ROSE-BUD. Berry and Associate Professor Deborah Walter created this unique scholarship and mentorship program in 2008 to broaden the participation of students in STEM fields.
Additionally, Berry is an advisor for the National Society of Black Engineers and a past president of the Technical Editor Board for the ASEE Computers in Education Journal. In 2020 alone, she has been honored with national and local recognitions including “30 Women in Robotics You Need to Know About” (robohub.org 2020); Interview of the Year Award, Purpose and Passion (Reinvented Magazine, 2020); and the FIRST Indiana Robotics Gamechanger Award (2020). In 2018, Berry received the “You Inspire Us” Leading Light Award from Women & Hi Tech for her groundbreaking work in inspiring women to pursue STEM careers.
“Carlotta has been an advocate and provider of STEM education for students for over a decade, helping bring competitive robotics to the forefront of education and helping support students who are typically not represented in STEM fields,” said George Giltner, president and CEO of TechPoint Foundation for Youth. “She has been a valuable partner of the Foundation and we are honored to recognize her efforts in the STEM community at the 2021 Mira Awards gala.”
Also during the virtual gala on April 22, TechPoint Foundation for Youth will launch a fundraising campaign to help support Digital Equity for Indiana students. The Foundation relies on the annual Mira Awards gala to help raise awareness and funding to support statewide programs that address critical needs in the Indiana tech and STEM talent pipeline.