Two NSBE Students Place in Debate Competition

April 18, 2018

 Diandra Sawyer and Andre Wingate were among several students who attended the 44th Annual National Society of Black Engineers Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

While there, Sawyer and Wingate participated in the debate competition, which this year argued the topic, “Resolved: The US should substantially increase funding to Public Schools who raise the percentage of students who master Algebra I in the Seventh Grade.” Named the Cardinal Duo, Sawyer, a freshman in the Chemical Engineering program, and Wingate, a junior in Mechanical engineering, walked away with a third place win.

The Argument for NSBE

The pair were provided the argument out of context, meaning that they had to prepare for both sides of the debate in advance. Sawyer, who hopes to work in green energy initiatives that focus on efficiency and affordability, has drawn great inspiration from the core values of NSBE. It was through that exposure to the organization that not only brought her to the conference, but what ultimately helped shape her argument at the debate.

She explained, “I had a friend recommend I to a NSBE meeting because of their mission statement ‘to increase the number of culturally responsible Black Engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.’ That mission statement has really shaped the way I view my education and my life after I graduate.”

Hearing about NSBE in the sixth grade from a teacher, Wingate has long remained committed to the vision of the organization. Joining NSBE helped him to gain his voice and to network with people in his field. Like Sawyer, Wingate was inspired to debate through his work with NSBE, leading the two to work together in the past.

“My first time doing a debate competition of any kind was at Fall Regional Conference (FRC) in November. My partner Diandra and I placed first in that competition, so we had to represent our region, Region 3, at National Conference," said Wingate. "As a team, we were given a situation, and we just had to gather as much research as possible. We weren’t told if we were going to be for or against until it was time to compete. So, we had to be prepared for both.”


While both Sawyer and Wingate were happy to place in the competition and for the work that they put into the debate, they look forward to future debates. Reflecting on their experiences, the Cardinal Duo are already mentally preparing for their next opportunity.

“My team and I put a lot of work into preparation. We had a great time doing this competition for the first time, and definitely will take it more seriously next year,” said Sawyer.

Wingate added, “I had a lot of the judges tell me that I looked like I had been doing debates my whole life, when it was only my second competition ever. That was great for me to hear, because I use to pick new skills up quickly, but some of the classes that I have taken had me doubting that skill.”

Ultimately, the conference and debate were invigorating for both Sawyer and Wingate, inspiring them to expand their horizons on what the organization can do, and what it can be. Between their success at the debate and their networking opportunities with their contemporaries, they are both excited at the possibilities from improving their GPAs and improving their resumes, to becoming more versatile in their field of interest.

“I think it was a great experience and I have really seen more of how college students and engineers can impact their community," said Sawyer. "It has reignited my passion for what I do, and I can’t wait to start new NSBE term and improve our chapter.”