Engineering students from Mindanao are not to be overlooked in the widening search for Filipino talent to represent the country in an internationally renowned competition advocating sustainable mobility.

This year, a record number of 34 teams from 25 engineering colleges and universities in the Philippines are participating in the Shell Eco-marathon Asia, where students design, build and drive their very own eco-friendly and fuel-efficient vehicles.

Sixteen of the 34 teams are first-timers in the competition, including three from Mindanao—the University of Mindanao, Mindanao State University–Iligan Institute of Technology, and Ateneo de Davao.

Together with two schools from the Visayas—the Cebu Institute of Technology and University of San Carlos—representation of the various regions in the Philippines is getting strong.

“We are extremely happy with the increasing participation of Filipino students from outside Metro Manila, and even beyond Luzon,” said Lyndon Lumain, general manager of the Shell Eco-marathon Asia.

“Our Philippine contingent to this event has been growing steadily year after year. This is proof positive not only of our world-class Filipino talent in the field of engineering, but also of our strong commitment to the global advocacy on smarter mobility,” he adds.

Last year saw 15 teams from 9 schools comprise the Philippine contingent to the Shell Eco-marathon Asia, which was hosted for the very first time in Manila. It coincided with the centennial of Shell companies in the Philippines.

This year, it will be held once more at the Rizal Park from February 25 to March 1. Manila will be hosting the regional event until 2016.

Engineering excellence

Achieving the most number of kilometers on the least amount of fuel was a challenge that definitely proved inspiring enough for many Filipino engineering students, such as Keen Cifra of the Ateneo de Davao University.

“This is the start of a new age of research, exposure, and application for engineering students in the university,” he declared. The fifth-year mechanical engineering student is relating the experience to the name of his team’s submission for the Shell Eco-marathon Asia, “Ignite,” which will compete under the prototype-gasoline category.

“We were challenged to really intensify our research and enforce our application skills,” added the 21-year-old, who is the son of a machine shop manager and a teacher. The Shell Eco-marathon is a hands-on learning experience for him and his team: “There are lots of concepts that were not taught to us in our subjects and are used in the fabrication process of the car.”

Cifra and Luis Alberto Mata, the designated driver, are in charge of developing the car’s engine and transmission. John Mark Diel and Nichol Allawan designed and built the body and chassis, while Gia Aleksandra Sonza and Edel John Ugdang handled the electronics parts such as the display, electronic fuel injection programming and switches. Ruy Ronquillo took care of wiring, power supply and auxiliaries. Professor Mark Anthony Rotor is the team adviser.

The team is particularly proud of the unconventional material that they used in building the vehicle. “Our [car] body is made up of rattan, an indigenous material here in our region, thus showcasing the culture and uniqueness of Davao City,” beamed Cifra.

He says the technical skills and concepts they learned to build the car would be handy when they graduate and start working as engineers. “Joining competitions like the Shell Eco-marathon is one of the efforts of the university to improve its engineering program,” he affirmed.

The young Cifra is optimistic of continued interest and support in their profession in the Philippines. “Engineering provides [developing countries such as ours] the tools and capabilities to compete and keep up with other more advanced countries,” he opined. “With the help of engineering, theories and concepts that are formulated through research and study are put into applications. These theories will be useless unless they are implemented in a more realistic condition.”

“With engineering, innovation and creativity will be concretized and will give the country the necessary assets it needs for development,” he added.

The Shell Eco-marathon Asia is open to the public. To register for the event, visit