Aaron Marshall
Category: 2020 High School Winner

Aaron Marshall

Louisiana State University

Inspiration is defined as the power of impacting one’s intellect or emotions. Dr. Calvin Mackie has been more than a mere inspiration in my life; he has influenced my academic development and career goals. Dr. Calvin Mackie is an award-winning scientist, inventor, speaker, educator, author and entrepreneur from Louisiana. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he has also worked at a Fortune 500 company, taught at the university level, patented inventions, written several books, and started a non-profit STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) organization called STEM NOLA.

I first met Dr. Mackie at a STEM NOLA event that I attended in middle school. Sensing my uneasiness, he engaged me with a brief conversation. I was encouraged to interact with the activities at the event, but being afraid to take risks, I retired to a corner of the gym to play imaginary basketball on one of the side goals. Again, he approached me and said, “Sorry I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Dr. Mackie, do you play ball?” I answered, “Yes, sir.” I quickly learned that Dr. Mackie had been a star basketball player at his high school but was injured in his senior year. He explained how he had no alternate path to success and how it took him years to understand how impactful STEM would be in his life. The story of his rise from taking remedial courses to graduating Magna Cum Laude and earning his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology resonates with me. Previously, I underestimated how much of an impact that conversation would have on my future.

In my junior year of high school, I decided to pursue the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB), meaning that I only had one free elective. My new schedule did not allow room for athletic PE which was the slot when the basketball team practiced. I was forced to decide between basketball and IB. I realized that my desire to be an engineer was growing larger than my desire to play basketball. When making this decision, I thought about the conversation I had with Dr. Mackie, as I saw parallels between Dr. Mackie’s high school injury and my urgent decision. At first, it was hard; so much of my identity encompassed playing basketball at a higher level. However, over time, I channeled more energy on my academics and our school’s robotics team. Now, I am fully prepared to exert all my energy and talents to STEM. Dr. Mackie’s willingness to create awareness for STEM has influenced me immeasurably. That initial conversation I had with him continues to resonate with me as I prepare for my college career. His influence has even inspired me to start a non-profit STEM awareness program called S.P.A.R.K. (Student Preparation for Application Research and Knowledge), where I mentor and tutor younger students. Dr. Calvin Mackie’s influence will continue to motivate me to excel in STEM and to create awareness of the educational and career opportunities that exist.