Two students from The University of Texas-Pan American won the top award for Network Design at the 2011 Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) National Intercollegiate Competition held in Orlando, Fla. March 24-27.
UTPA students and AITP student chapter members Raudel Rosales and Ben Gallegos placed first out of 45 teams that competed at the conference in the Network Design contest. UTPA's team bested those from DeVry University-Chicago (2nd), Purdue University (3rd), Texas State University-San Marcos and Mesa State College, the latter two both earning honorable mention. Attendance at the conference included 437 students from 61 universities nationwide.
Gallegos, who is also a computer information systems major, said he and Rosales started jumping up and down when they heard the person announcing the contest winner say, "All the way from the Rio Grande Valley..."
"It was the first time we had even competed, so to win on the national level was just incredible. To show that we could compete with anyone in the country was something that gives us a lot of pride," said Gallegos, who is from Edinburg.
The problem the team was presented regarded a manufacturing company that wanted to track its shipments more efficiently. In order to do so, a new system needed to be implemented to track its trucks by communicating through satellites back to the servers on site. Rosales said they designed a network topology or structure that represented the replacement of the company's old system which required the student team to set up a start-up schedule for the new system, a diagram of how the new system would function, the system's advantages and disadvantages, a cost benefit analysis and conclusions.
"We had four hours to work on answering the problem statement and it was all done on-site and we used every last second we had," said Rosales, who hopes to one day be a project manager at a Fortune 500 company.
To prepare for the competition, students put in many hours on their own to study cases from prior years on the AITP website. A special student leadership workshop presented in fall 2010 by Dr. John Darcy, associate professor of accounting and business law, for all College of Business Administration student organizations also jump-started the students' skill sets necessary to achieve their organizations' goals, including those of AITP, said their faculty advisor, Dr. Jerald Hughes, assistant professor of computer information systems and quantitative methods.
Hughes said he was proud of what his students were able to accomplish and that the win showed that UTPA can hold its own with the best AITP has.
"I have always had great confidence in both their talents and their skills, and I view this win as a vindication-if you ask UTPA students to step up, they will, and they'll accomplish great things," he said.
Hughes said he appreciated the support to organize and/or find resources to fund the conference trip, particularly from the Office of Career Services, the Student Government Association, the department chair Dr. Kai Koong, and the College of Business Administration Dean Dr. Teo Ozuna. Participating in AITP conferences provides students an opportunity to test their skills against their regional and national peers in problems created and judged by real IT professionals in the industry. It also provides a great networking venue with national and international companies looking to hire top performers, he said. Hughes added that travel experiences are also beneficial to Valley students.
"The really-big-city experience is always one which opens up new horizons and possibilities for students, particularly those who may have spent all or most of their lives in the Valley," he said.
At the conference, both Rosales and Gallegos said they were able to attend presentations by industry professionals and talk with potential employers such as USAA, Boeing, State Farm and Amway. Rosales was also one of several drawing winners who had the opportunity to participate in a private tour of IBM's Smart Center at Disney World.
"Overall, it was a great experience that will hopefully pay dividends in the future," Gallegos said.
UTPA has approximately 15 members in its local chapter led by its president Paula Hinojosa, who helped in the fundraising efforts for the trip. Other students who competed were Nestor Rodriguez and Eduardo Molina in Database Design and Evan Brough and Joshua Sanders in PC Troubleshooting.
According to its website, AITP is the leading worldwide society of information technology business professionals and the community of knowledge for the current and next generation of leaders. Its mission is to serve its members by delivering relevant technology and leadership education, research and information on current business and technology issues and forums for networking and collaboration.