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When David Ajoku first left home to study engineering, he had no idea how his path would unfold. He wanted to be at the forefront of science, so he turned toward space travel. Since then, however, he’s learned that it’s not about pushing humans farther, it’s about advancing where we are.

Ajoku, who is pursuing a master’s in mechanical engineering and engineering and technology innovation management, was awarded the American Gear Manufacturing Association (AGMA) Foundation’s scholarship. Ajoku is the first Black student to receive this award since the program began in 2010.

David Ajoku

Source: David Ajoku

Master’s student David Ajoku is the first Black student to win AGMA’s scholarship.

Ajoku was born in Nigeria but came to the United States and received his bachelor of science in aerospace engineering with a minor in mathematics from Western Michigan University. After graduation, Ajoku worked in the automotive industry for about three years, where he learned a lot about real-world engineering.

“I got a chance to work in both technical roles and engineering leadership roles,” Ajoku said. “It didn't take too long before I fell in love with mechanical design.”

Eventually, he was able to experience leading a design project as the chief design engineer. This taste of management left him wanting more. He left his first job to work for Tesla in 2019, where he was able to further explore engineering management.

“I got a chance to further embrace my passion for technical work, engineering management, and technology innovation all at the same time,” Ajoku said. “I was fortunate to get the opportunity to contribute toward driving large-scale innovations on the Tesla Model 3, Model S, and Model X.”

As he looked for the next stage in his career, Ajoku was drawn to the interdisciplinary aspects of CMU’s engineering program. By pursuing a dual degree, he is able to explore both of his passions: technology innovation and engineering. Both of these things are key to surviving in our modern world, Ajoku says. At CMU, he is able to take not only engineering courses, but also classes from the Tepper School of Business and the School of Computer Science.

I hope my story inspires anyone seeing and reading this to dream big—because dreams do come true if you dare to dream.

David Ajoku, Master’s student, MechE/ETIM

After one year of graduate school, Ajoku was awarded the AGMA scholarship. Ajoku said he was honored to represent CMU in such a historic way. As the first Black student to receive this award, Ajoku hopes he can inspire other minorities in engineering.

“I hope my story inspires anyone seeing and reading this to dream big—because dreams do come true if you dare to dream,” Ajoku said. “Aim for the stars. If I can do it, you can do it too.”

After graduation, Ajoku hopes to continue innovating through entrepreneurship. He wants to solve real-world problems using his CMU education. Someday though, he hopes to found his own startup company. Either way, he knows his future lies in technology because he is passionate about it. Ajoku encouraged everyone to find their passions and explore them to their full potential.

“I think the thing that worked for me in my own experience is being bold. You have to have that self-confidence,” Ajoku said. “And the way you develop that is through honing your craft. Whether you're working on a small project, in a small team, in a class, do it to the best of your ability. That's how I see it.”