STUDENTS from the country’s top engineering schools really know how to walk the talk in saving Mother Earth, one car at a time.

MANILA. Team Atalanta of Mapua Institute of Technology. (Contributed photo)

This as Mapua Institute of Technology, University of Santo Tomas, and Don Bosco Technical College will compete on July this year in a marathon that banks on the limits of fuel-efficiency, mileage, and of course less carbon footprint.

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The Shell Eco-marathon 2010 will be the Philippines’ first participation in the annual event that has already spanned for decades.

From just a friendly match in 1939 between scientists to know whose car would give the best mileage, the hit competition in Europe and the Americas has now reached the Asian shores.

The inaugural Asian SEM will be held from July 8 to 10 at the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur which declares a winner by virtue of traveling the farthest distance with just one liter of fuel.

A total of 107 teams from leading Asian universities and colleges in Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Pakistan, Iran, Singapore, China, Malaysia, India and the Philippines are set to display mental mettle and pride in a 2.7-kilometer world-class race track.

The mechanics are quite plain and simple. The participating teams are tasked to design, build and drive the most-energy efficient vehicle in a bid to pocket the $1,500-grand prize on top of special awards for design, technical innovation, marketing, communications, and safety.

Participants can either design vehicles for the “Prototype” or the “Urban Concept” category.

The Prototype category employs technical creativity, innovation with a futuristic design, with less restriction on the critical automotive design aspect.

On one hand, the Urban Concept category is designed to address current transportation trends and aspects by making cars which are viable for commercial use, judging on the appearance and technology.

For both categories, the teams can use conventional fuels (diesel, liquefied petroleum gas, gasoline) or alternative fuels (bio-fuel, solar, gas-to-liquid, electric hydrogen).

MANILA. The trio of RP team include team leaders Mark Lester Arrieta from Don Bosco, Jericho Rivera from Mapua, and Tim Orille from University of Santo Tomas. (Contributed photo)

Meet Team Philippines

Novelty, efficiency, and sustainability seemed to be a tall order for all participants but Team Philippines makes sure it is a shoo-in for the big fight.

Don Bosco Technical College, tagged as “Team Grigio” takes pride on its car made out of lightweight materials, with its shell capable of resisting air drag.

“Basically we are around 70 percent complete. Hopefully we can finish it very soon,” said 22-year-old team captain Mark Lester Arrieta.

In a separate magazine interview, team adviser Paul Catalan said they are planning to develop “an electronic system to make it more fuel-efficient.”

“Our goal is not just to win this competition for the school but also to win back Mother Earth, as professor Catalan told,” Arrieta said, adding that the popular “three stars and a sun” will be the look for heir car.

The school’s entry is named after Don Bosco’s guardian dog, Grigio, a mysterious creature named personally by Don Bosco.

Stories had it that the dog has been saving Don Bosco in times of danger.

Joining Arrieta in the team are fellow mechanical engineering students Angelo Blanco, Derrick Ferdinand Figueroa, Mark Liwell Lontoc, Omega John Ruiz, Armin Lexter Tan, Edmund Angeles, Jason De Guzman, John Elvin Jimena, Janus Magat, Geraldo Sadian, Primo Eduardo Diaz, Patrick respo, Ivan Patrick Puno plus the lone female member of the group, Erica Vicera.

For Mapua Institute of Technology, the proponents chose a teardrop design to lessen the friction in the surface of their red and yellow vehicle. Mapua goes for aerodynamic efficiency, a dream for all car racers who wanted to reduce drag, wind noise, fuel usage, among others.

Members of the renowned engineering institution call themselves as “Team Atalanta,” inspired by the Greek goddess of running, traveling, and adventure.

Bannering for the Intramuros-based squad is 20-year-old Cagayan de Oro native Jericho Paolo Rivera and is joined by seven others, namely: Kenneth John Caraig, Willlord Garcia, Jefferson Nanao, Charles Edward Alviar, Albert Jarwin Cudal, Karl Anthony Co and Richard Saul Turalba.

“We are really inspired to do this project for us to represent the flag and country and to share awareness about ways to save Mother Nature,” said Rivera.

Rivera added that after months of brainstorming, the team purchased materials last December, executed the design and is now 50 percent done.

Team Atalanta mentors include Dr. Reynaldo Vea, Dr. Manuel Belino, Sherwin Magon, Engineers Igmedio Isla, Artemon Luna, and John Judilla.

With the countdown to University of Santo Tomas’ quadricentennial anniversary next year ticking, “Tiger 400” leader Tim Merville Orille knew they are dedicating their efforts for the premier Catholic university.

Aside from putting the ideals of the school, Orille shared that three important factors in design were considered: fuel efficiency, use of lightweight materials and ultimately, safety. The cockpit area of the vehicle has a design that looks like a rib cage and pinwheels were used to help reduce friction.

“Our estimate is that we are around 30-40 percent complete already. Still a long way to go but we just have to make sure we come up with a good output,” he said.

Other members of the Espana-based team composed of engineering and fine arts students are Rizfer John Azares Cruz, Richard Ching Lao, Keith Russell See, Marion Andrew San Pedro, Edwin John Perey, Jarome Lopez, Kristoffer Lara, Renz Cruz, Jan Carlo Belen, Carlos Colmenares, Lorenzo Bautista, Waldo Rodriguez, Richard Go and Candice Sy.

A test-run next month in the 3.4-kilometer-long Batangas Racing Circuit would determine the optimized driving pattern of the cars.

Tasks and lessons

Aside from building up their skills in science, technology, design, mathematics and care for the environment, the competition went a notch higher by training students to employ the viability of their projects to potential employers.

“The teams are given by Shell a subsidy but it is the teams’ effort to look for potential sponsors for their respective projects. These are the things that they don’t normally do in school,” Pilipinas Shell Sustainable Development Manager Suiie Suarez said.

Suarez added that the teams also have “ninongs” or godfathers who voluntraily offered guidance and support for the schools. The godfathers were the retired executives of Pilipinas Shell including Mapua alumnus and former country chairman Eli Santiago.

Don Bosco meanwhile had former Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation (PSPC) Health, Safety Security and Environment Manager Nards Ablaza while former PSPC Vice President for Manufacturing Rico Bersamin supported UST.

The three teams also received P300,000 each from Pilipinas Shell as financial support.

Moreover, after continuous promotion over popular social networking site Facebook, UST received additional P150,000 from Pilipinas Shell for being the first team to reach the 5,000-mark.

UST’s “Tiger 400” received P150,000 bonus from Pilipinas Shell for reaching the 5,000-mark in Facebook. (Contributed photo)

As of March 8, UST had 10,224 fans followed by Mapua with 5,023 and Don Bosco with 4,198.

Also, the opportunity is a two-in-one package for the teams because their entries are also considered thesis projects as well. Whether they will win or not, a college diploma is surely now in the bag.

Although they were fortunate enough to join an international competition during their college lives, Orille enthused that the contest should set a precedent for other schools to beef up their science and engineering education as well.

“It would be better if state universities can experience this. It is a call for the government and perhaps the private sector as well that we really have to invest in science and technology,” he said.

But for now, the teams are moving heaven and earth to finish their projects, notwithstanding the time and effort they have to literally endure, all in the name of fueling an inherent passion. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)