Dr. Sandrine Mubenga Profiled by Voice Of America at Girl Power Event in Toledo Ohio

Voice Of America Profile: Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, PhD, PE

Professor at The University of Toledo, Founder and CEO of SMIN Power Group, Founder of the STEM DRC INITIATIVE

Smin Power Group CEO, Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, was profiled in March of 2020 by Voice of America (VOA) as she prepared for and delivered the 2020 keynote address at a Girl Power event in Toledo Ohio.  Dr. Mubenga also participated as an exhibitor at the event.  In this profile, VOA toured a solar field with Dr Mubenga, captured her explaining how she came to be devoted to electrical engineering, why she has a desire to promote the electrification of the DRC, and why she promotes STEM Education for Girls.  Excerpts from the video and a full transcript are shown below the video.

“People should not die from lack of electricity.”

Excerpts From the Video:

Dr. Mubenga Explains How She Became Interested in Electrical Engineering

I was born in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Congo and I grew up in Kikwit which is a small town. So, it has brick houses, roads and everything except that there was no running water, no electricity.

When I was 17, I got really sick and when we called the doctor, she told me, ‘You have appendicitis. You need to go under surgery right away.’ Unfortunately, there was no electricity in the general hospital. So, for three days, I was between life and death.

After those three days, where I was really in pain and I was scared, I found my motivation to become an electrical engineer.  I realized that in the 21st century, it is unacceptable that people die because of the lack of electricity.”

Academic Accomplishments

I came to the United States to study electrical engineering at The University of Toledo. I was very interested in renewable energy. So, when I was doing my undergrad, I learned to design and install solar systems and completed my bachelor’s, my master’s and my Ph.D. here.  I could see that it was very important, not only to find solutions to problems but to teach others how to find solutions and how to implement those solutions. So, that’s why I became a professor.  I wanted to pass on the knowledge I’ve learned.

On The Subject of STEM Education for Women and Girls

Typically I have zero women (in my classes). We are lucky to have three women in a class.  Why do we have few women in the STEM field? (STEM Means) Science, technology, engineering and math.  It’s very easy. When you go in a store, you see all the toys for women and girls are dolls and things like that and for the boys, you would have tools. So unfortunately, society is pretty much sending a message that science, technology, engineering and math are for men.

Right now, there’s a lot of work that’s being done to say, ‘Know you are a woman, you can do STEM. That message needs to be sent early.

Entrepreneurship

After I got my professional engineer license, I started SMIN Power Group because that was my dream. In 2013, then we opened the office in Kinshasa. We installed solar systems and designed solar systems for communities in the Congo. I always wanted to lead a company that would provide energy solutions in places like Kikwit. It’s not as much the money but it’s the social impact coming from my experience, you know, almost dying because of the lack of electricity.

It was a huge effort to educate the customer. And we were pleased to see that after this effort, that more people are interested in solar in the Congo. So, it’s been a positive experience.

Keynote Address at Girl Power Event

The University News Network wrote an article. It was called, “Women Killing It in Sustainability“and they listed me.  Imagination Station read the interview. So, they contacted me. They said, ‘We are doing the Girl Power! event to introduce girls from Toledo to the STEM field. Would you like to be part of it?’ So that’s how I was invited to be the keynote this year.

I believe they had about 200 girls attending. It’s always energizing to be around young people full of hope, you know. I just love that positive energy.  So that together we can find solutions to our problems. I was surprised by the level of maturity of some of those girls. I remember one of them asked me if it was difficult to be a mother and to pursue a career in STEM. She must have been 10. And I realized that often times that is a reason that would slow women to go into the STEM field. So, I explained to the girl that I basically had my children as I was building my career. If you have a good support system, if you are well organized, you can pursue your dream, have your kids, and have your company.

I think the best way to encourage more women and young girls is be there.  First, show them that it is possible to be done. I think it’s possible that one day, half of my class will be women if we focus more into introducing STEM early on, in the school program.  So, this is what we would like to see.

###

Raw VOA Transcript:

((PKG)) GIRL POWER

((Banner: Girl Power!))

((Reporter/Camera: Jeff Swicord))

((Editor: Jacquelyn De Phillips))

((Map: Toledo, Ohio))

((Main characters: 1 female))

((Courtesy all photos: Dr. Sandrine Mubenga))

((MUSIC))

((NATS: Solar field hum, Dr. Mubenga walking through

snow))

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

I was born in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Congo and I

grew up in Kikwit which is a small town. So, it has brick

houses, roads and everything except that there was no

running water, no electricity.

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

FS 275. 75 watts each.

((NATS))

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

When I was 17, I got really sick and when we called the

doctor, she told me, ‘You have appendicitis. You need to go

under surgery right away.’ Unfortunately, there was no

electricity in the general hospital. So, for three days, I was

between life and death.

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

I’m going to check this and make sure everything…..this one

is a little bit…..

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

After those three days, where I was really in pain and I was

scared, I found my motivation to become an electrical

engineer.

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

This is good. If they break, the whole line is broken. There is

disconnection here.

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

I just realized that in the 21st century, it is unacceptable that

people die because of the lack of electricity.

((NATS: Wind, water, birds))

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

I came to the United States to study electrical engineering at

The University of Toledo. I was very interested in renewable

energy. So, when I was doing my undergrad, I learned to

design and install solar systems and completed my

bachelor’s, my master’s and my Ph.D. here.

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

So, this week, we are going to continue with introduction to C

and some of…..

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

I could see that it was very important, not only to find

solutions to problems but to teach others how to find

solutions and how to implement those solutions. So, that’s

why I became a professor to pass on the knowledge I’ve

learned.

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

This is a way to get the answer.

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

Typically I have zero women. We are lucky to have three

women in class.

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

You got it? Okay, good.

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

Why do we have few women in the STEM field? Science,

technology, engineering and math.

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

Oh, Connor. Jennifer?

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

It’s very easy. When you go in a store, you see all the toys for

women and girls are dolls and things like that and for the

boys, you would have tools. So unfortunately, society is

pretty much sending a message that science, technology,

engineering and math is for men.

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

And then you have the LED here.

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

Right now, there’s a lot of work that’s being done to say,

‘Know you are a woman, you can do STEM.’ That message

needs to be sent early.

((NATS))

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

After I got my professional engineer license, I started SMIN

Power Group because that was my dream. In 2013, then we

opened the office in Kinshasa. We installed solar systems

and designed solar systems for communities in the Congo. I

always wanted to lead a company that would provide energy

solutions in places like Kikwit. It’s not as much the money

but it’s the social impact coming from my experience, you

know, almost dying because of the lack of electricity. It was a

huge effort to educate the customer. And we were pleased to

see that after this effort, that more people are interested in

solar in the Congo. So, it’s been a positive experience.

((NATS: People walking to event))

((Banner: Girl Power! event at Imagination Station))

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

The University News Network wrote an article. It was called,

Women Killing It in Sustainability and they listed me. And

Imagination Station read the interview. So, they contacted

  1. They said, ‘We are doing the Girl Power! event to

introduce girls from Toledo to the STEM field. Would you like

to be part of it?’ So that’s how I was invited to be the keynote

this year.

((SOT: Girl Power! Host))

Please help me give a big round of applause to our amazing

speaker, Dr. Sandrine Mubenga.

((NATS: Applause))

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

Thank you very much for this introduction.

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

I believe they had about 200 girls attending. It’s always

energizing to be around young people full of hope, you know.

I just love that positive energy.

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

So that together we can find solutions to our problems.

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

I was surprised by the level of maturity of some of those girls.

I remember one of them asked me if it was difficult to be a

mother and to pursue a career in STEM. She must have

been 10. And I realized that often times that is a reason that

would slow women to go into the STEM field. So, I explained

to the girl that I basically had my children as I was building

my career. If you have a good support system, if you are well

organized, you can pursue your dream, have your kids, have

your company.

((NATS: Parents and children exploring Imagination

Station))

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

I think the best way to encourage more women and young

girls is be there.

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

You are a natural. Wow!

((SOT: Instructor

Yeah, she’s getting it.))

((SOT: Dr. Mubenga))

She’s good.

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

First, show them that it is possible to be done.

((SOT: Instructor))

Great!

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

I think it’s possible that one day, half of my class will be

women.

((SOT: Instructor))

Put your code right there.

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

If we focus more into introducing STEM early on, in the

school program.

((NATS: Robot whirring, laughing, high-five))

((SOT: Little girl))

Thank you.

((SOT: Instructor))

You’re welcome.

((Dr. Sandrine Mubenga, Ph.D., PE, Electrical Engineer,

Professor at The University of Toledo))

So, this is what we would like to see.

((NATS))

t

 

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