UCLA Engineering Alumnus Broadens Ambition for Middle Schoolers in the Sciences

Brad Dybel connected with Center X’s Exploring Computer Science to share “Hidden Figures” with students from Grace Hopper STEM Academy.

While there is no Oscar nomination in the category of “Best Film to Inspire Youth to STEM Fields,” Brad Dybel (’93, M.S., Civil Engineering) thought otherwise. The civil engineer and alumnus of UCLA’s School of Engineering brought middle school students from the Grace Hopper STEM Academy in Inglewood to a screening of “Hidden Figures.” The real-life story of three African American women who overcame the segregated work environment of 1960s NASA and became innovators in computer and scientific fields, was inspiring to the 6th-8th graders from the Inglewood middle school.

Civil engineer and UCLA alumnus Brad Dybel aims to expand students’ awareness of education and job opportunities in the STEM fields. Courtesy of Brad Dybel

“The movie was good,” said Alicia, a 7th grader. “It inspired me to the be the first in everything I do, or the best.”

“It inspired me because when people try to discourage you, you’ve always got to move forward,” said Amaya, another 7th grader.

Dybel, who earned his master’s degree at UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, has recently spoken to students at Grace Hopper STEM Academy and to other youth groups on his experiences as a geologist and geotechnical engineer and the career potential in the engineering fields. He is currently at work on a book project focused on introducing teen readers to engineering.

“Students get plenty of counseling or mentoring from educators, but almost none from practitioners, like me, who are usually too busy to perform such services,” Dybel said. “It is based on this observation, and my belief that I have a certain knowledge to offer youth, that I am leading the Orange County Post of the Society of American Military Engineeers in introducing young people to the fun of working in STEM fields, the opportunities for well-paying careers, and our nation’s plans to invest heavily in engineering infrastructure improvements.”


Above: Students from Grace Hopper STEM Academy, a charter middle school in Inglewood, attended a special screening of “Hidden Figures” in February, thanks to UCLA alumnus Brad Dybel and the Orange County and Los Angeles Posts of the Society of American Military Engineers.