Engineering technology students win awards for designs driven by personal experiences, challenges
The Temple College Skills USA STEM Club was named a Gold Chapter of Distinction – the highest honor a chapter can receive – at the SkillsUSA Texas College/Post-Secondary competition in Houston.
Chapter members also won first-place honors in four areas, including Engineering Technology Design, Additive Manufacturing, Photography and Chapter Business Procedure.
Their success at the state level gives group members the opportunity to advance to the national competition for the second year in a row. At the national competition in Atlanta this summer, they will share their projects and compete in Engineering Technology Design and Additive Manufacturing.
“I am so proud of these students and the way they’ve competed at this high level for the past two years,” said Dr. Sandra Melendez, chair of Temple College’s Department of Engineering Technology and the club’s advisor. “They are proof that STEM students from a variety of backgrounds can work individually and collectively to innovate and create products that will better their communities and the world. We hope their love for engineering technology – and the success they’re experiencing – will inspire others to pursue educational opportunities in STEM.”
Mother honors son and brothers with design
The project that led to the first-place finish in Engineering Technology Design is the design of a “Handibat,” a pneumatic device that allows children with disabilities to play baseball. The project was a labor of love that emerged from one club member’s personal experience.
Jennifer Ognibene, the club’s president and an engineering technology student, developed the idea of the Handibat after watching the struggle of several family members – including her son – challenged by Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which leads to muscle deterioration and gets worse over time.
“Due to my background, having three brothers and one son with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, I have a true passion for making adaptations for people with disabilities,” Ognibene said.
She said that club members Lori Kliebert and Mauricio Leza helped bring this passion to life with their design skills and partnership in the Handibat project.
“All of our hard work paid off and lead us to victory at the SkillsUSA Texas State Conference Competition,” Ognibene said. “We will continue to improve the Handibat design as we advance to the SkillsUSA National Conference Competition in Atlanta.”
Years of pain, frustration spark new medical design
Engineering technology student Geraldo Pirela, a 38-year U.S. Army veteran and retired sergeant major, has been using a CPAP machine to help him sleep for more than 20 years. During those years, he said he has battled a number of afflictions – including dry eyes and even an abrasion – resulting from the machine’s anti-asphyxia valve blowing air into his eyes while he slept.
“All that air can cause diseases, glaucoma, and all sorts of problems. I’ve had four or five different machines with the same results,” Pirela said. “My idea was to get something to divert the air from my face, and that’s why I developed the air diverter for the CPAP mask.”
Along with teammate Adrianna Rogers, Pirela designed an aerodynamic component that would clip to the anti-asphyxia valve and keep air from blowing in the CPAP user’s eyes during sleep. After several iterations, the final workpiece – which they printed on a 3D printer using FDA-approved medical material – worked. Their presentation of the device won first place for Additive Manufacturing. The next step is to compete in Atlanta.
“That prototype device that we made, I actually use,” Pirela said. “I have better sleep and a lot less air in my eyes.”
Full list of awards and award winners
Engineering Technology Design – First Place
Additive Manufacturing – First Place
Photography – First Place
Chapter Business Procedure – First Place
Quiz Bowl – Third Place
Facilithon – Third Place
Technical Drawing – Fourth Place
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Temple College is a comprehensive community college offering an array of educational opportunities. Founded in 1926, Temple College has enjoyed an excellent academic reputation for more than 90 years, and is nationally recognized for excellence in its programs from the visual and performing arts to competitive athletics, and has become one of the premiere institutions in the state for education and training of health care providers, advanced manufacturing and workforce development programs. The faculty and staff are committed to providing exceptional quality instruction.
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