Engineers Week at UTPA highlighted by Science Bowl and ¡Viva! Engineering competitions
Posted: 03/02/2009
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The fourth annual Regional Science Bowl and the fifth annual ¡Viva! Engineering competition held for more than 100 Rio Grande Valley students capped a week full of events at The University of Texas-Pan American to celebrate National Engineers Week Feb. 16-21.

Rodolfo Lopez (center), a UTPA computer engineering major and SHPE member, oversees D'Angela Lucero and Jaquelyn Gonzalez, both students at Austin Middle School in San Juan, as they construct a hydrogen cell fuel generated vehicle during the ¡Viva! Engineering competition held Feb. 21 in conjunction with the Regional Science Bowl sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and UTPA.
The Science Bowl was coordinated by the UTPA Division of Community Engagement through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). For the first time it was held in conjunction with the ¡Viva! Engineering competition, hosted by the UTPA chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Both events offered students from 10 high schools and 14 middle schools a chance to visit the campus and participate in challenging academic and hands-on science competitions.

Annie Whatley, DOE Office of Economic Impact and Diversity acting director, said the DOE was proud to partner with UTPA to sponsor the Science Bowl.

"The DOE recognizes the importance of investing in these young scholars and that these competitions are critical to encouraging students to strive for excellence in math, science, and technology," she said.

Members of the Edinburg North High School Science Bowl team are pictured calculating their answer to a challenging question during the competition held Feb. 21 at UTPA.
Winners of the Science Bowl, in which student teams compete in a verbal forum to solve technical problems and answer questions in all branches of science and math, were Harmony Middle School from Brownsville and the Science Academy from Mercedes.

The winning regional middle and high school teams will advance to the national event to be held in Washington, D.C. April 30-May 5, 2009. More than 13,000 students now participate in National Science Bowl's high school competition started in 1991 and more than 5,000 students in the middle school competition which began in 2002.

The ¡Viva! Engineering competitions included the construction of a hydrogen fuel cell generated vehicle which the student teams then raced and the design and construction of a wind turbine which was judged on how much electricity it generated. The winners, determined by the combined scores of the Science Bowl and ¡Viva!, were Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School in Penitas and Edinburg North High School.

Other events held during Engineers Week were a luncheon to honor top UTPA students and faculty in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, a banquet, and a student organization fajita cook-off and baked goods contest conducted by engineering and computer science students.

Dr. James Li (right), assistant professor of manufacturing engineering,awaits a fajita sample from Edgar Camara, a senior majoring in manufacturing engineering. Li served as a judge during the Engineers Week fajita cookoff held Feb. 20 at UTPA. The Society of Manufacturing Engineering won the cookoff while the English Honor Society won the bake off held as part of the week's celebration activities.
Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, UTPA associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering and director of the UTPA School of Engineering and Computer Science, said he hoped such events raise awareness and interest in the study of and career opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

"We want to show that it can be fun to be an engineer or computer scientist and to also recognize the excellence of our students and faculty. Furthermore, we want to use the events to reach out to the entire community including the K-12 student population," he said.

Those faculty members and students respectively honored at the luncheon with the Most Outstanding Award in each department were Dr. James Li and David Tapia, Manufacturing Engineering; Dr. Constantine Tarawneh and Samantha Salinas, Mechanical Engineering; Dr. Ed Banatoski and Jorge Laurent, Electrical Engineering; and Mr. David Engle and Jorge S. Hernandez, Computer Science.

Members of professional, discipline-related student organizations helped organize and participate in the week's activities. They include SHPE, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineering, Society of Women Engineers, IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), and the Engineering Honor Society.

For more information on academic programs and discipline-related student organizations in the College of Science and Engineering at UTPA, go to For more information on the DOE National Science Bowl competition, go to