ERDC researcher to be honored at Black Engineer of the Year Awards

U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center
Published Feb. 22, 2024
Samuel Stidwell, a research architect at ERDC’s Construction Engineering Research Lab

Samuel Stidwell, a research architect at ERDC’s Construction Engineering Research Lab

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Samuel Stidwell, a research architect at the U.S. Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), was recognized as one of the Science Spectrum Trailblazers at the 2024 Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) STEM DTX Conference. Science Spectrum Trailblazers are men and women who demonstrate outstanding performance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It was shocking to see the nomination come through,” Stidwell said. “I felt honored to be listed amongst the greatest. Sometimes I find myself having imposter syndrome, but it was a reminder that my work pays off.”

Stidwell’s journey at ERDC-CERL started in 2018 as a student intern. Stidwell, a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, is on the Additive Construction (AC) team at CERL where he develops AC technology and helps integrate it within the military.  Stidwell serves as a principal member of an internationally recognized product development team at the forefront of 3D printed infrastructure. He is also on the Sustainable Design and Development (SDD) Team, where he provides data and insight to the Army to inform their SDD policy and implementation strategies.

“I love to learn, and that’s a big part of my job at ERDC-CERL,” Stidwell said. “My role involves breaking down big problems into actionable steps toward a solution, implementation, project management, team management and mentorship of intern students.”

As a research architect, Stidwell swaps hats to step into both his roles on the AC and SDD teams. In AC, Stidwell develops best practices for optimization of 3D printed concrete and other AC methods. He also manages and mentors student interns and briefs the program for visitors. On the SDD team, he studies the LEED rating system, the Army’s third-party green building certifier, to provide data and strategy for implementing policy dependent on evolving building standards. Stidwell also tracks the Army’s LEED project inventory and report to one of the Army’s headquarters.

“His organizational intelligence and ingenuity are central to several of the team’s technical breakthroughs, including the first field demonstration of 3D printed concrete in the world and the first 3D printed concrete building in the United States,” CERL Director Dr. Andrew Nelson said about Stidwell’s accomplishments. “This important work supports the Army mission and helps keep our Soldiers safe by reducing construction time and logistics in austere environments.”

Throughout his roles at ERDC-CERL, Stidwell is deeply committed to mentoring and managing students.

“I love to give back and help people, which is a big reason I enjoy mentoring students.” he said.

“Sam is dedicated to outreach, mentorship and community service and consistently gives back to our community and the profession through mentorship both in the lab and in the local community,” Nelson said.

In 2023, Stidwell received ERDC’s 2023 Award for Excellence in mentoring. Besides mentoring, Stidwell says he is also inspired to grow in his career thanks to his family.

“Seeing the sacrifices my mom made raising me and my sister, observing my dad serve in the Army for 22 years and seeing him work so hard outside of his job to build a prosperous life, has pushed me to forge my own success in honor of them.”

“I am also inspired by the horrific history of what my ancestors had to endure. It inspires me to build a life that they can enjoy vicariously through me,” he added.

As a Science Spectrum Trailblazer, Stidwell said this recognition has pushed forward his mentality of what he can accomplish. Through this award, he hopes to inspire those who are watching him earn this recognition.

“You have a unique gift that you offer to the field and to the world,” he said to the next generation of trailblazers. “It may not be obvious now, but it comes to light along the way. Other people may recognize it before you do. Even if you don’t know what your gift is at this moment, find comfort in knowing it’s there, keep working on your craft(s) and developing yourself.” 

“Sam’s recognition as a BEYA Science Spectrum Trailblazer reflects his professionalism and dedication to his research and the field that he works in. Sam has no fear to jump in, get his hands dirty, and do the hard work that leads to impactful outcomes,” Nelson said. “The way he approaches his work is the personification of a trailblazer and sets the tone for everyone around him to reach higher and press forward.”

In his future at ERDC-CERL, Stidwell hopes to be more impactful to his team’s capabilities. He also hopes to assist in the hiring processes to help expand his team and train new members. Stidwell sees himself continuing to dedicate time to mentoring students.

“I’m extremely proud of Sam receiving this recognition and am deeply grateful for what he brings to our team at CERL and in our community,” Nelson said. “I am excited to see what the future holds for Mr. Stidwell as he continues to explain on what promises to be an impressive scientific career.”

Stidwell's accomplishments were recognized during the Technology Recognition Luncheon on February 16, 2024, in Baltimore, Maryland.