I am an entrepreneur with an extensive background in education, electrical engineering/robotics, and technical product management. Let’s unpack that.
Since I was a child, I have been intrigued with how things work. I loved to tinker outside with my Dad, who is a mechanic. I naturally excelled in math and applied science, and my teachers made sure to bring to my attention that I had a gift. This gift afforded me a full-academic scholarship to study Electronics Engineering at Norfolk State University, an HBCU in Norfolk, VA. Upon completion of my BS in EE, I made my way to Atlanta, GA to pursue three degrees from Georgia Tech — MS in EE, PhD in EE, and an MBA.
Following my PhD, I conducted research in robotics and technology at Emory University, Louisiana State University, and Georgia Tech Research Institute. I quickly learned that I did not enjoy my work environments. I was oftentimes the “only-only” (only Black, only woman) — this is extremely stressful and mentally draining. This is also when I began practicing yoga regularly for selfcare. #Namaste.
I needed a solution, so I launched my first company ProfBrown’s STEMulation® in 2019. The mission of ProfBrown’s STEMulation® is to increase the exposure of underrepresented youth to STEM-related fields. Although this was not a solution to fix my immediate problem, it would help prevent future generations from having to endure my situation by increasing the numbers. In addition, being an entrepreneur would allow me to create a work environment where I am able to thrive.
You may be wondering how the idea of ProfBrown’s STEMulation® came about. Well, my PhD dissertation focused on using robotics to monitor and improve student engagement during math education. I learned that by the third grade, children have already decided if they want to explore math any further (for a variety of reasons). Math is the basis of all STEM-related fields, so it’s important to ensure children have a fair chance to become a STEM professional. My goal is to reach every student where they are (learning-wise) and give them the opportunity to make an educated decision [whether or not] to consider a career in STEM.
During my PhD, I also discovered that eye gaze can be used to determine engagement levels while learning. In addition to engagement, the human eye holds rich data about the mental state of a human being. After completing my MBA in 2020, I launched my startup company Eyegage™ (eye gaze + engage) that further explores the methods and systems needed to analyze the human eye and classify engagement levels, drug and alcohol use, and medical injuries (patent pending).
Moral of the story – if you are struggling to find the right opportunity, create it yourself. If you would like to know more, let’s connect here or follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or Instagram (links below). I look forward to hearing from you!
LaVonda Brown, MBA, PhD