When Marvin Francis was 10 years old, his mother got a new TV and VCR. She said, “Hey, I need you to hook this up,” and she gave him a drawing of the back of the TV that the store clerk had provided.
“I didn’t even know what I was looking at,” Marvin said. “I unpacked everything, and I just talked myself through it. This is in, this is out, this should go here, and then it worked!”
That was the moment that Marvin first realized that he loved tinkering. Today, he is a staff engineer at GE Aviation. He’s worked in engineering since 2006, first in design, and now on process. He worked his way through an associate degree, and then a bachelor’s degree, and finally a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.
“I was never exposed to engineering as a youngster,” Marvin shared, “There are no engineers in my family. I was raised in a single parent home.” But Marvin was able to attend Brooklyn Technical High School, where he had another key moment that brought him closer to becoming an engineer. In his senior year, he and a team of classmates had to build a Go-Kart from scratch. “Our team’s Go-Kart was essentially the only team’s that worked.” The process of working through the math and science to create something real, something that worked, pushed Marvin to pursue engineering in higher ed.
Experiences like these are why Marvin volunteers with youth, and why he’s volunteering with Next Engineers: Engineering Discovery. He knows first-hand what a difference a single moment can make.
Making Moments for the Next Generation
When Engineering Discovery launched in Cincinnati in October 2021, Marvin knew he wanted to volunteer to be part of it. “Once I saw the program information, I said, ‘Yes, tell me where to go,’” Marvin said. He’s not the only one: as of January 2022, 46 GE Aviation volunteers have joined the project’s local partner, the University of Cincinnati, to run Discovery events at three schools, bringing hands-on engineering activities to 525 students. “I was the facilitator of the event,” Marvin explained, “and then I’d float around the room to help students.”
“I would say Engineering Discovery is achieving its goal really well,” Marvin said, “I’d love to go back to the same schools, and we have that planned, to visit the same students again” with a second activity. “But just the fact that you have people of color, who look like the students, wearing GE T-shirts and saying, ‘you can do this if you want to,’ I think that’s achieving the Next Engineers mission.”
GE volunteers like Marvin play a crucial role in Engineering Discovery activities. Volunteers share their own professional experiences, float around the room during the activity to offer feedback, and show students pathways that are open to them.
“To me, just an exposure to engineering for 20 minutes might get a student to say, ‘Hey, I didn’t even know this was available to me. Can I learn more?’” Marvin said. “I would absolutely recommend Next Engineers volunteering, and not just to engineers. Adults and leaders in these activities might be doing something the students or their families have never been exposed to. You might be an accountant volunteering for this, and the group might say, ‘What does an accountant do?’ so they learn about that, too.”
“That’s a ripple in the pond,” Marvin notes, “You throw a pebble in the pond and you never know where it ends up, right? Volunteering is that opportunity to throw the pebble.”
Marvin has volunteered with young people for many years. He reflects on the fact that you never know what the students may be struggling with, and volunteers can create opportunities for students to process their experiences in a new way.
“That is why I volunteer. Just that moment of possibility,” says Marvin, “Sometimes we just need to show up and be there” for the students. “They just need us to show up.”
Find out more about Next Engineers in Cincinnati here.