SF State News {University Communications}

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Engineering students place in national competition

February 21, 2008 -- A team of three SF State engineering students placed third in the nation at an invitation-only engineering competition sponsored by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).

Photo of the model car.

The team's remote-controlled fuel cell model car.

The team, one of only six invited to compete at the organization's annual conference in Philadelphia last November, was the only public institution to make the top three, which included Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University. The other competitors represented University of California, Berkeley; California State University, Los Angeles and New Mexico State University.

The SF State team consisted of mechanical engineering students Mathew Jaeger and Thu Ya Maw, and Tatiana Cantu, a computer-engineering student and president of SF State's SHPE student chapter. Their winning project, a remote-controlled model car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, earned the team $2,000 in scholarship awards.

"I was very surprised when the results were announced because we did not have the opportunity to see the other projects demonstrated," said Cantu who plans to pursue a graduate degree after graduation.  Each project was demonstrated privately before a panel of SHPE members.

The students began their work together in Engineering Professor Dipendra Sinha’s mechanical design class during the 2007 spring semester and continued throughout the fall. Additional advice was provided by Nilgun Ozer, faculty advisor to the SF State student chapter of SHPE.

"We are especially proud because these three undergraduate students are working at the cutting edge of a new technology," said Norman Owen, acting director of the SF State School of Engineering. "Because of its potential to power buses and cars, fuel cell technology is being used in a number of experiments around the country with the hope that it can be an alternative to the internal combustion engine." He added that the project provided the students with an excellent opportunity to learn both the theory and practical issues regarding construction and control of an important energy source.

Photo of the team's remote controlled fuel cell model car with mechanisms exposed.

Exposed mechanisms of the car.

The competition was developed and administered by the Advancing Hispanic Excellence in Technology, Engineering, Math and Science (AHETEMS) Foundation to stimulate a creative, intellectual and entrepreneurial spirit; and to demonstrate to industry the technical and business capabilities of Hispanic engineering and science students. Finalists were required to present a commercially viable product that had a unique social benefit and would help improve the quality of life.

Selection of the finalists was based on an abstract and a design concept paper submitted by the students.  Engineers from industry, academe and government reviewed entries from all over the country before selecting the six teams who presented their working models or prototypes at the conference. A different panel of industry professionals judged the finalists.

Stanford University took first place in the competition with an electrically controlled device designed to enhance blood circulation. Carnegie Mellon University engineering students took second place with "BreathAir," a handheld device for use by flight attendants to monitor the blood alcohol content of passengers.

-- Denize Springer


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