Have you heard the joke about the shy engineer?
It goes like this:
What’s the difference between an introverted and an extroverted engineer?
An introverted engineer looks at his shoes when he’s talking to you, and an extroverted engineer looks at your shoes when he’s talking to you.
That’s the misconception most people have of engineers, right? Many people think engineers are cold, pragmatic to a fault, and introverted.
Sure, some of them are, but that doesn’t mean all of them are or even the majority of them.
Think about it. If all engineers were boring, then Huntsville would be a bleak place to live.
And, according to Eugene Edwards, who’s secured a number of patents for his work, the key to being a good engineer is having a life outside of engineering.
“Better humanitarians make better engineers,” Edwards said. “I believe that scientists and engineers who stay up all night, and they are not involved in humanitarian and community activity, their minds are clogged.”
It’s also worth mentioning, as you’ll see, Edwards is not a shy engineer.
He elaborated that when he was struggling with finding the solution to a problem, the best thing he could do was step away. Then when he’d return to working on whatever the project was like figuring out how to use lasers to identify different types of materials or refining sensors to determine the shelf-life of various missiles, he would have a new perspective that often led to a solution.
“Every time I left work, I made sure I had something in the community to do,” he said. “That would get my mind off the design work I was doing. And, when I got back, my mind was so fresh.”
In other words, he’d unclog his mind.
Refusing to get too caught up in his work has allowed Edwards to hold on to some old passions and find new ones throughout this life.
One of those is music.
“I started in middle school with an R&B group called the Fairy Tales,” he said. “We started about the same time the Jackson 5 started.”
According to Edwards, the group resembled The Jackson 5 in many ways, including the youngest member of the group being named Michael.
“So, when we went into the club, we were doing a lot of (The) Temptations, Smokey Robinson, then when The Jackson 5 came out, we blew up.
“People couldn’t afford to go see The Jackson 5, but they could afford to come to see us.”
Edwards said, the group didn’t have a lot of money, but they did the best they could to mimic The Jackson 5 look of bell-bottom pants and puffy shirts by taking up a “love offering,” as you would in church, during one of their gigs so they could raise the funds needed to by new stage attire.
“When we would get ready to sing some of The Jackson 5’s songs, we’d say, ‘Come on up to the mic Michael’.”
Music is what puts Edwards through college. Thanks to a music scholarship, Edwards was able to graduate from Alabama A&M University with a degree in electrical engineering technology.
He would go on to get a master’s from Howard University in Electrical Engineering and a doctorate in ministerial education from KME University in Athens, AL, along with certifications in fiber optics manufacturing from California State Polytechnic University, and optical fiber engineering from George Washington University.
Music had helped Edwards find other opportunities.
“When I got to (Alabama A&M), for some reason, I woke up and said, look, I need to get me a degree that’s going to pay me money,” he said. “So, I started in engineering and did a music minor.
“From there, it allowed me to get a fellowship to graduate school to get a master’s degree in engineering and eventually – after I taught at A&M for four years – I got to the Arsenal.”
Edwards spent a total of 37 years with the government supporting various projects. By the time he retired, he’d had numerous patents and inventions, authored many journal papers, and co-authored two books on nanotechnology.
He keeps busy, though.
Since retiring, he’s released a CD of gospel music and started Save The Youth Incorporated, which provides oversight for education and youth programs, and parental counseling.
Save the Youth held its first summer camp in 2019, hosting children from 5 to 16 years old.
The camp was designed to get children interested in the engineering challenges that surround missiles and rockets and teach them the difference – or lack thereof – between the two.
Eventually, Edwards wants to convert a donated building into a rocket science laboratory and further the impact his organization can have on students in underserved communities.
There’s a GoFundMe page seeking to raise $750,000 to aide in the effort.
The address for the page is https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-the-youth-inc-training-rocket-scientist.
“We’re a long way away,” Edwards said. “We just started the GoFundMe page, and it hasn’t been public long enough for the word to get around.”