New OCtech NSBE Chapter Keeps Winning Streak Alive at Region II Conference Competitions

Photo of National Society of Black Engineers
Pictured are, from left, Region II Fall Regional Conference Chair Teni Ayeni, Calvin Aduma, Parth Patel, Jackie Booker, Rick Kakanou, Region II Chair Kalynn Chambers and Region II Professionals PCI Chair Dr. Ershela Sims.

The club’s name may have changed, but the winning legacy of Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s National Society of Black Engineers Pre-College Initiative Chapter remains the same.

The new chapter – comprised of former Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five’s Technology Center NSBE students who are enrolled in OCtech’s Middle College and/or attend Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School and the High School for Health Professions – recently traveled to the NSBE Region II Conference in Bethesda, Md., to compete in Ten80 Racing and Try-Math-A-Lon competitions and participate in a VEX workshop. Chapter teams placed high in both competitions.

“Winning is all we know,” Chapter Advisor Phyllis Pelzer said. “We live for the competition!”

As part of the Ten80 Racing Challenge, students are tasked with manipulating and redesigning model cars to perform under various race conditions. Students competed in three races and gave a formal presentation that included a 30-second elevator pitch.

Crashes, battery changes and mishaps didn’t slow OCtech’s NSBE PCI group down, as members of the Road Runners team placed first in the Endurance Race and tied for third-place overall. Team members were Reth Abraham, Robert Pelzer, Tzion Lawrence, Matthew Jennings, Zachary Sampson, Avyom Ojha, Michael Morgan, Achrisaleyah Fields and Kadijah Spell. NSBE parent Maurice Abraham served as the team’s coach.

Two teams of five students also competed in the TMAL competition, squaring off against five other teams in a quiz bowl where they solved algebra, statistics, pre-calculus, geometry, numbers and operations, and problem-solving questions. The ninth- and 10th-grade team finished in second place.

The TMAL program is a yearlong points and academic challenge that culminates in a head-to-head race for a spot in the TMAL World Quiz Bowl. Students will continue to gain points through the Mathletics website in preparation for the TMAL World Competition at the National Convention in Boston, Mass., in March 2016.

Members of the winning TMAL team were Parth Patel (captain), Calvin Aduma, Jackie Booker, Rick Kakanou and Maia Pelzer (alternate).

Abraham, a freshman at the High School for Health Professions, said he is enjoying his first year as a member of OCtech’s NSBE PCI Chapter.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “This was my first time going to Maryland and doing the competition. I was a little nervous when I saw our competitors, but we placed very high in the end.”

Prior to the Ten80 Racing Challenge, the budding engineer said he shared some ideas on ways to improve the group’s car, including adjusting the pins that hold the battery down and modifying the car’s height.

Abraham was part of the pit crew with Fields, a senior at HSHP. Fields said since joining NSBE as a freshman, she has become more social and more comfortable with sharing her views in class.

“I’ve also been provided with networking opportunities and have developed a better understanding of engineering,” said Fields, who plans to study computer science and studio art in college.

She said teamwork helped OCtech’s Ten80 team do so well at the competition. Teamwork is just one of the lessons that Fields will take with her when she becomes a collegiate member of NSBE.

“I want to get more girls involved in STEM and ensure that those who are interested have a way to participate,” she said.

OCtech’s NSBE PCI Chapter is open to all high school students in Orangeburg, Calhoun, Bamberg and Allendale counties. Students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and an interest in pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Membership is $35.

For more information, contact Phyllis Pelzer at 803-535-1538 or, or visit

Scroll to Top