Originally published on BET.com.
Since June, Derek Frempong has been one of the top innovators chosen for the second round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which pairs distinguished individuals from the private sector, non-profits and academic world to develop solutions that can “save lives, save taxpayer money and fuel job creation.” The program was launched by President Obama in August 2012.
As a software engineer, Frempong, 39, is on a “tour of duty” with the Department of Energy working on technology solutions in disaster response and recovery. Before accepting the fellowship, he had developed a patent for a facial-recognition technology, Connections Education, a virtual education solution for students in grades K-12. This is to ensure that students do not have other people sit in their place when they are taking tests.
Frempong first latched on to the idea of a career in software technology while working a chemical engineering internship that had a software development aspect. He said as a young student who was always good at science and math, he naturally gravitated toward engineering as it allowed him to solve problems by creating things.
Born in Washington, D.C., to Ghanaian parents, Frempong is one of a small pool of Blacks present in the STEM fields today. Black men and women made up 5 percent of scientists and engineers working in their field in 2010, according to a recent study by the National Science Foundation.
Frempong spoke to BET.com about his reasons for taking on the opportunity to be a Presidential Innovation Fellow, how he thinks the government can improve their disaster relief response technology, and why more African-Americans should be encouraged to go into technology and related fields.
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