CMU Student Named First Black Recipient of AGMA Scholarship

David Ajoku wanted to be at the forefront of science, so he turned toward space travel. 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 degree 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.

Ajoku was born in Nigeria but came to the United States and received his bachelor of science degree 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 served as chief design engineer on a project. This taste of management left him wanting more. He moved to Tesla in 2019, where he continued to 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 College of Engineering. By pursuing a dual degree, he is able to explore his passions in technology innovation and engineering. Both are key to surviving in the modern world, Ajoku said. 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.

Now in his second year of graduate school, Ajoku wants to motivate 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 wants to continue innovating through entrepreneurship and solving real-world problems using his CMU education. Ajoku said he wants to encourage others to find their passions and explore them to their full potential.

“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 or in a class, do it to the best of your ability.”