One to Watch: For Darnell Moore, community involvement means full STEAM ahead

In our ongoing series, ‘One to Watch,’ we profile TIers who are making a difference through innovation or citizenship.

Darnell Moore

For Darnell Moore – a technology leader, mentor, and champion of diversity and inclusion – traditional STEM-based educational programming needs a new companion: the arts.

That may seem far-fetched for an engineer and leader who earned his childhood nickname – Destructo – because he often dismantled things to see how they worked. But he believes that the arts express the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that is critical for technological innovation.

“The performing arts — music, dance, performance production — tend to be accessible because they resonate with our innate capacity for expression,” he said. “I want to introduce kids to science, technology, engineering and math through the arts.”

Darnell was introduced to the arts early. In elementary school, he sang in the Chattanooga Boys Choir, then played a few instruments during high school. He also hosted high-school and college radio shows.

“My interest in music fed my curiosity about engineering and about new ways to express and interpret ideas in the digital domain,” he said. “My interest grew over time. My senior design project used a TI digital signal processor to synthesize sound and my doctoral thesis used cameras and computer vision to recognize human movement.”

For Darnell, then, STEM becomes STEAM.

The importance of mentoring

He also believes that mentoring plays a critical role in the development of technical careers, so he participates in a mentoring program through the TI Diversity Network’s Black Employee Initiative. And as co-chair of the network’s Leadership Council, he helps coordinate more than a dozen employee initiatives that promote workplace inclusion.

He credits his own mentors with guiding his career toward engineering.

“I didn’t grow up knowing any engineers,” he said “If any were in my community, I wasn’t aware of them. While attending college, I developed mentors to help guide my way.”

Darnell earned his doctorate from Georgia Tech before joining our company 17 years ago. He now works as a technical leader and manages a laboratory that develops next-generation technologies for automotive and industrial applications.

His efforts to develop the next generation of technology leaders is making a difference. Through his mentoring and encouragement, two African-American students have earned doctorates in electrical engineering — a significant milestone considering that the U.S. routinely produces fewer than 200 black Ph.D. engineering graduates each year.

Serving the arts community

As a member of the Board of Directors and chair of the Education and Community Engagement Committee for the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Darnell encourages the center’s partnership with local nonprofit talkSTEM, a community of professionals that promotes conversation about STEM and STEAM thinking in daily life.

In March, the center played host to the Dallas Arts District’s first Pi Day Festival and became the monthly launch point for talkSTEM’s Math Walks for elementary and middle school students.

Darnell also provides guidance and support to the center as it creates experiences for high-school students. One program, for example, brings engineering students to the Winspear Opera House to learn from visual artists who use robotics and coding as a foundation for studio practice. Another program teaches students about the latest theater technology.

“Darnell is a dream board member,” said Chris Heinbaugh, the Performing Arts Center’s vice president of external affairs. “He takes the time to learn about all the education and community programs we provide, then comes to the table with ideas that help reinforce them, improve their impact and reach, and move them forward in realistic and sustainable ways.”

Way past cool

And as Darnell serves the community and mentors others, he continues to love his job.

“The prospect of working on truly disruptive technology is way past being cool — it’s electrifying,” he said. “At the end of the day, most engineers simply want to work on relevant and contemporary problems that matter, so it’s professionally satisfying to enable technology that makes life safer and more convenient and that spawns new innovations we have yet to imagine.”