SAVANNAH, Ga. – As a child, Shahidou Mariko loved to tinker. He often spent time taking apart toys, frequently Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, and reassembling them into his own creations, self-described super toys. That tinkering flourished into a desire to work on real cars with his father, particularly German cars such as his beloved Audi A6, as he grew up in Rockville, Maryland. Between this desire and his aptitude for math and science, his parents encouraged Mariko to keep pushing through school at the highest levels, which eventually developed into a passion for mechanical engineering.
His original end goal was a career focused on cars, but that direction changed while studying at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which transformed his enthusiasm for automotive designs into a focus on construction. While he interned with the county water department, he developed an interest in working with the federal government, which led to his discovery of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Now after working for the Savannah District Army Corps of Engineers for more than five years, Mariko’s hard work and dedication will be rewarded. Announced last November, he is a selectee for the Modern-Day Technology Leader Award for the 2022 Black Engineer of the Year Awards STEM Conference. Mariko received the award during the Technology Recognition Event hosted virtually in Washington February 17-19. The award recognizes Mariko’s work on an alternative health care facility for COVID-positive patients in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Even though this recognition caught Mariko off guard, he said he also found it rewarding to know his hard work was appreciated and meaningful for others.
“While I was going through this past year, I was doing my job day-to-day, not really thinking about what this means and just trying to create the most beneficial end product I could to the best of my ability,” said Mariko.
Mariko said he was proud of the work he did on the COVID facility because he was the sole mechanic on the project and because he developed the project under a tight schedule, that went from design to 90 percent completion in construction within three weeks. Mariko took a National Guard barracks and converted it into extra hospital space for COVID-positive patients. The project included a full HVAC renovation, the creation of access points for ambulances to transfer patients, and the addition of cleaning stations to disinfect and protect hospital workers and patients.
“That was a meaningful project for me because I saw how it was relevant to the situation in the world and how it made a difference with a population that needed facilities of that sort. Just knowing I made a difference in helping create that facility was a good feeling,” said Mariko.
The project in St. Croix wasn’t the only place Mariko helped develop COVID facilities. Mariko said he gained experience surveying possible expansions and creations of temporary housing for patients throughout Georgia, including at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, unrenovated spaces at Augusta University, and parking lots and surrounding fields in Waycross.
Mariko said he was also proud of his first solo project where he worked on a shoot house, maze, and tower at the Fort Bragg Security Operations Training Facility in North Carolina. The facility is used to create live-fire exercises that simulate real-world scenarios that help soldiers to train the way they would fight while on actual deployed missions. Mariko worked on creating and installing a system that could mitigate smoke or any other hazards that would occur during their training and that system would allow instructors to reset the building as quickly as possible.
Whether constructing medical facilities to help with the COVID crisis or assembling training facilities that help increase the combat effectiveness of U.S. military service members, Mariko focused his work on creating the best result for those he helped.
“I'm most passionate about the end product because it takes accuracy and efficiency to produce something that will physically be there and I take pride in that. I had a hand in doing that and they’re going to be there for a long time,” said Mariko.
To learn more about Shahidou Mariko, check out this video.
To learn more about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visit https://www.usace.army.mil/