SPEEA members part of Extreme Engineering winning team
Imagine having 24 hours to create a com- pany from scratch with 10 college students who didn’t know each other? They received
a budget with just one trip to purchase supplies.
The challenge required them to meet milestones
throughout the 24 hours with help from professional ‘consultants.’ Their goal – design, build,
test and refine a marshmallow-launching cannon with materials such as PVC pipe and an
electronic sprinkler valve.
That’s called ‘Extreme Engineering Challenge’ –
now in its 10th year at the Society for Hispanic
Professional Engineers (SHPE) national conference. This year, four SPEEA members were part
of the seven-member consulting team that contributed to the Boeing-sponsored team.
Their team won the challenge – the first time a
Boeing-sponsored team won. They produced a
double-barrel cannon with a light tracker. Their
lead consultant, Marjorie Blanco, SPEEA member
and software engineer, believes those ‘extras’ helped
the team win by “thinking outside of the box.”
With the pressure that many start ups face –
limited resources, new ‘employees’ and stressful
deadlines, some teams crumbled, Blanco noted.
But their team made a point of bonding over
meals instead of rushing back to work, for example. That effort to build relationships paid off.
“When under stress, they were more prone to
collaborate,” Blanco noted.
Katherine Meza, a SPEEA member, Boeing systems engineer and senior consultant, agreed. “I
talked to at least one of the other coaches about
how their team struggled – they had to pull some
people apart to avoid confrontation (because of
the stress),” she said.
“The fact that they (the winning team) could
work so well together after only knowing each
other for a few hours is so impressive,” she added.
“What makes this competition so extreme is
not only the challenge of the problem – it’s the
working with other people whom you’ve just met
under such stressful conditions.”
Another senior consultant for the Boeing team,
Carlos Blanco, a SPEEA member and Boeing
project engineer, also noted the teamwork was a
highlight of the experience. “I was blown away
by how well and how quickly our team bonded,”
he said, adding “If you’re not working together
as a team, the team fails.”
Only some of the consultants were able to do the
interviews – which averaged about three minutes
per college student. Of the 400 who applied, 100
were chosen (drafted) for 10 teams. They weren’t
able to get everyone they wanted but aimed for
a mix of skills and experience to give them the
edge on a challenge that was still a mystery when
they picked their teams.
At this year’s competition/conference, Marjorie
Blanco received a SHPE Technical Achievement
Recognition (STAR) award for community service. She is the first female Boeing engineer
to win this award from SHPE. In addition to
SHPE’s engineering challenge, she’s a mentor to
two robotics teams (both recipients of SPEEA
grants for Science, Technology, Engineering and
Math (STEM)) as well as Girl Scout troop leader,
Boy Scout pack treasurer and activities with her
children’s schools, her church, other SHPE leadership roles and STEM activities.
She’s committed to STEM awareness to pave the
way for others to pursue related careers. About
the Extreme Engineering Challenge, she noted:
“Many of those students are the first generation in their family to go to college or pursue
engineering,” she said. “It’s really good for them
to have role models – to see how professionals
in the industry work. We want them to fill our
shoes and mentor the next students.”
The members of Boeing Team Pink who won the Extreme Engineering Challenge are shown here with their consultants, including SPEEA members. The students formed a ‘company’ called
Gravity to design, build and market a marshmallow-launching cannon they called ‘ The Marshian.’ SPEEA members were Marjorie Blanco (front row, far right), lead consultant, Carlos
Blanco, (front row, far left) and Katherine Meza,(front row with badge) who are both senior consultants, and Nathalie Moyano (front row, third from left). Other consultants included
Oscar Ceron, Kristian Gonzalez and Juan Carlos Oliveros who also came to the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) conference from all over the U.S.
SPEEA is on