Northrop Grumman Provides Diversity in STEM Panel for Middle School Students


Reaching for the sky is not enough. You have to reach for the stars.

— Ako Boyd, Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman Corporation provided serious and helpful lessons to a group of 60 middle schoolers in the Washington, D.C. area at Luther Jackson Middle School.  In a panel discussion moderated by students, engineers from Northrop weighed in on the issues of the day, including getting ahead in the tech workplace as a person of color.

Panel participants included:

Being Black in America…racism…it’s almost a daily thing–facing discrimination, and seeing others being discriminated against.  The simple answer to it is to speak up about it, but I also want to educate.  Some discrimination comes from not knowing.

— Ako Boyd, Northrop Grumman

Ako (Eye-ko) Boyd is a Software Engineer working for Northrop Grumman. He hails from Baltimore, Maryland, where he was born, raised, and currently lives. He has been working for Northrop for two and a half years on embedded software for radar systems on fighter planes.  Mr. Boyd received his Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering at Morgan State University in 2018 and is currently applying to attend graduate school to receive a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. Some of his hobbies include playing video games like Call of Duty, hanging out with friends, though COVID has made that difficult, and cycling. One of his biggest accomplishments during the pandemic has been cycling one hundred miles in one day. It took over seven hours and several stops, but he could accomplish this along with six other cyclists.

There’s nothing like collaboration.  They are going to help you.  Definitely ask questions, and don’t be afraid to use Google because you will not know everything even after you got your degree. 

— Ashlynne Williams, Northrop Grumman, On Problem Solving

Ashlynne Williams works as a Software Engineer for Northrop Grumman Corporation in Baltimore, Maryland. She currently supports hardware engineering efforts in her second rotation in the Mission Systems Pathways Program. In her spare time, Ashlynne enjoys playing video games, cooking, and traveling.  She is from San Antonio, Texas. She graduated from Prairie View A&M University with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science in May 2019. While attending Prairie View, she was very active in various student organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers, the Association in Computing, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

What continues to motivate me and inspire me is meeting so many incredibly intelligent people, especially talented women, is confirmation that even though I do have to put in my time, I will get to where I want to get to. Even though I’m not really too sure where that is, it’s inspiring to see people who have changed their career paths and taken all sorts of detours and still end up somewhere successful. Even though that’s not where they originally planned.

— Ashlynne Williams, Northrop Grumman, On Motivation

The panel was moderated by middle school students from Luther Jackson Middle:

Julia Clavecillas is an 8th grader at Luther Jackson Middle School, President of the Technology Students Association, President of Jackson JagWire robotics club, Student-Teacher Summer Microcontroller Arduino Uno R3 Camp, and a seasoned journalist and editor with the JacksonJournal.News.   Here is a link to Julia’s portfolio of stories on JacksonJournal.News.

Benita Xavier is also an 8th-grade student, Secretary of the Technology Students Association, Communications Director of Jackson JagWire robotics club, and a seasoned journalist with the JacksonJournal.News.  Here is a link to Benita’s portfolio of stories on JacksonJournal.News.

The panel was held virtually.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is an American global aerospace and defense technology company. With 90,000 employees and an annual revenue in excess of $30 billion.  The firm ranks No. 96 on the 2020 Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations.

Luther Jackson School first opened in 1954 as Luther Porter Jackson High School, the only high school for Black students in Fairfax County.

When Fairfax County Public Schools integrated, the school opened as Luther Jackson Intermediate School in September 1965.

Dr. Luther P. Jackson, for whom the school was named, distinguished himself as a historian and educator whose nationally recognized writings identified the contributions of African-Americans in Virginia’s history.

He headed the History Department at Virginia State College in Petersburg, provided leadership in the Virginia Teachers Association, organized the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and established the Negro Voters League of Virginia.

Go to where you are going to be celebrated and go to where you are valued as well. 

— Ashlynne Williams, Northrop Grumman, On Networking as a POC

Engineering.  It’s a team sport.  You are not here to solve the world’s problems on your own. You have people here to help you and help make the world a better place.   

— Ako Boyd, Northrop Grumman, On Problem Solving

I was always in school.  Everything I did in Middle School led me to be where I am.  So the advice I have is, enjoy being a kid.  After high school, it all goes by so fast, so enjoy being a kid. 

— Ashlynne Williams, Northrop Grumman, On Advice for Middle Schoolers

What they don’t tell you is you can become popular if you are smart. Stay true to who you are. I wish I would have known that back when I was younger.  I always tell myself, “If I had just paid attention in school and stopped trying to be popular, I could have been president of the United States.

— Ako Boyd, Northrop Grumman, On Advice for Middle Schoolers

We need more engineers.  I’m especially talking to my young ladies. We need y’all.  So that’s what continues to motivate and inspire me.

— Ashlynne Williams, Northrop Grumman, On Inspiration