SHPE conference 2008:
something great for everyone
At the Phoenix,
The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE, www.shpe.org) has been supporting Hispanics in technical careers for more than three decades. SHPE conference 2008, held in November in Phoenix, AZ, was the society’s biggest national conference ever, with some 5,000 attendees.
Separate activity tracks were designed to meet the needs of working engineers and a range of students. Grad students, undergrads, high school and middle school students could choose workshops on topics from nanotechnology to how to prepare a college application.
For the professional crowd, offerings included workshops with PMI credits, a three-part series of sessions on preparing for and earning an MBA, information on entrepreneurship, workshops on the latest technologies and much, much more.
Sessions on green technology were available each day of the conference. A Ford presentation outlined the company’s strategies for competing in a world that is looking for eco-friendly vehicles. Sessions led by engineers from GlaxoSmithKline, Clorox, Chevron, Arizona Public Service and others explored sustainability, biofuel development, green manufacturing techniques and a host of other areas.
A business plan competition for professionals was a new addition this year.
Extreme engineering for the college crowd
The college students’ track included many activities under the aegis of Advancing Hispanic Excellence in Technology, Engineering, Math and Science (AHETEMS, www.ahetems.org). Students could participate in the popular National Academic Olympiad and a variety of technical design, paper and poster contests.
Eighty eager students took part in the fourth annual Extreme Engineering Challenge, a twenty-four-hour experience that simulated a real-world engineering situation.
After interviewing more than 160 interested students, corporate sponsors chose eight teams of ten to work together on this year’s project: creating a water pump system for use in underserved urban or rural areas.
Each team had to organize itself, review or learn relevant engineering principles, create a design, build a mockup and a working prototype, then present a production and marketing plan to a panel of judges. They were armed with a basic kit of materials, a $20 budget for supplemental supplies and their own ingenuity.
As in the real world, a few team members dropped out, some designs had to be redone, prototypes succumbed to unforeseen conditions, and exhaustion set in toward the end. Whatever happens is part of the challenge, as it is for engineers on the job.
“The students get a real taste of what they’ll see after they leave school,” says Sam Attaguile, a ChE and lab manager at 3M. Attaguile and Cesar Gonzalez, a software engineer at creditcards.com, originated the contest at the 2005 SHPE conference.
The top team, sponsored by Intel, designed a pumping system based on children’s playground equipment: they captured the energy generated by kids at play to power their mechanisms. Runner-up teams were sponsored by BAE Systems, Ford and Raytheon.
“Stand and deliver” model teacher
Keynote speaker for the dinner that capped off the AHETEMS programs was Jaime Escalante, the charismatic math teacher who inspired the 1988 film Stand and Deliver. The movie chronicled his success in persuading a group of East Los Angeles kids to prepare for and take college entrance exams.
In his address to almost 1,700 students, Escalante demonstrated how he brought fun to his math classroom. His math tricks and techniques intrigued and sometimes baffled the audience of budding engineers.
In an interview with Diversity/Careers, Escalante emphasized the importance of recruiting and inspiring teachers to be positive, enthusiastic role models for their students. “We need teachers who can think for themselves and communicate what they think to the kids,” he says.
SHPE and AHETEMS are taking steps in that direction by recognizing outstanding secondary-school educators. A first for the SHPE conference, AHETEMS staged a day of professional development workshops for middle and high school math and science teachers in Hispanic-serving schools.
Awards and honors
No conference would be complete without awards. Some top SHPE Technical Achievement and Recognition (STAR) awards are covered in the News & views section of this issue. The STAR awards were presented at the Friday corporate luncheon sponsored by Chevron.
Chapter of the year awards went to professional chapters from Connecticut and New York City, and to student chapters from the University of Virginia, Arizona State University and the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign.
SHPE recognized IBM as company of the year for its multifaceted support of SHPE members and mission. IBM sponsors several mentoring programs, a summer camp in engineering and science for high school students and much more. This year the company is also providing a “loaned executive,” Enrique Gomez, to serve as SHPE’s first full-time CEO.
Other members of the society’s Industrial PartnerSHPE Council were honored throughout the event. Gold sponsors of the 2008 conference were Abbott, the Air Force Research Laboratory, Applied Materials, Arizona Public Service, the U.S. Department of Energy, Deutsche Bank, General Dynamics, Lehman Bros, Naval Sea Systems Command, PepsiCo and Turner Construction Co.
Gala career fair closes the show
On the final day of the show more than 260 corporations, government agencies and universities participated in a mammoth career fair (see On the road section in this issue for details). While waiting for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that opened the fair, attendees were treated to a Wild West show of spectacular gun, rope and whip tricks, some involving enthusiastic audience volunteers.
The next annual SHPE conference will take place in Washington, DC, October 28 to November 1, 2009.
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