The next generation of technology leaders will graduate from Tuskegee University’s engineering program. The platform where they will showcase their creativity and innovation is the 2011 Imagine Cup, Microsoft’s premier technology contest for students.

“We thought this was a good project to include members of the Engineering Ethics and Society class. In this class, we examine the ethical issues in the world of engineering and [the Imagine Cup] presented a golden opportunity to address the eight millennium goals outlined by the United Nations. Those are some really hard problems,” says Dr. Lee Burge, who has been with the university since 1999.

The eight “goals” that he references are the UN’s Millennium Development Goals: end poverty and hunger, universal education, gender equality, child health, maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability and global partnership.

In early March 2011, Microsoft hosted the university’s Realizing Your Dream event. The collaboration with the technology giant marks the inaugural year that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will participate in Imagine Cup. It also highlights Microsoft’s commitment to diversity — “enabling broader and more inclusive access to technology resources.”

Tuskegee University’s 13 competing teams are comprised of young social innovators who, keeping in line with the programs theme, are using technology to make a difference in the lives of people all over the world. They are building Windows phone applications and Xbox games that are focused on driving awareness or providing services around the environment, from designing mobile health care applications to enabling access to quality education for all children. Burge has adopted the Imagine Cup program as part of the curriculum.

A retired Air Force colonel, Burge is an Oklahoma City native who was recruited into the field of engineering in his early college years by a professor at Oklahoma State University, where he earned all of his degrees, including his Ph.D., in electrical engineering.

He credits his father, who was a U.S. Navy radar operator, for exposing him to electronics, and his mom for being very instrumental in his life. She was “quite a disciplinarian” and her rearing methods are “so useful” for students’ success today. “They need folk to show them what to do,” advises Burge. –yvette caslin

Click here to read the lessons from Dr. Burge’s mother to share with family members, friends and people that you wish to make a difference in their lives.