Cleburne High School engineering student Jose Sanchez achieved first place team honors at the Aggie Invent Junior Halliburton Challenge held Oct. 18 and 19 at Texas A&M University.
The experience proved to be a defining one for the eleventh-grader, who was among a four-member delegation from Cleburne attending the by invitation only event. As participants in the high school version of TAMU’s College of Engineering Aggies Invent, Sanchez, Hugo Cuellar, Josie Peña and Annabelle Yarbrough teamed up with students from across Texas in an active design process, tailored to simulate the engineering industry environment.
The challenge of this real-world experience had fou- and five-member “collaborators” going through the same process used by engineers on the job. They began with the development of ideas relating to a particular challenge, ultimately arriving at consensus on a solution. The final phase of the exercise had students building and testing a mock prototype of their design, culminating in a review of their work by judges.
The question facing the high school engineers at the 18-hour event had all the aspects of a real-world project: “With constantly evolving technologies reshaping our daily lives, energy industries from all over the world are seeking solutions to power future generations. How do you combat climate change, yet still meet the rising demand for energy and distribute it to the 7.5 billion people in the world in an affordable and sustainable way?”
“They were solving problems, not just designing,” CHS engineering teacher Roel Peña said. “This experience showed students another aspect of engineering, with the end user in mind. This particular challenge was about meeting the needs of people.
“The Aggies Invent experience is a window into the world of engineering entrepreneurship. This is the part of engineering that is related to product development. This experience helped participants connect how an engineer solves a problem in meeting what a user really needs; for example, is a baby carriage with five wheels really better than one that has four wheels? The Texas A&M Spark! Education Outreach center did a superb job of providing the materials, curriculum and expert support so that over 100 students, including our four from Cleburne, could participate.”
Sanchez’ team included students from San Antonio and Austin, working together to seek a solution to reduce oil flaring emissions on offshore rigs, which can have a negative impact on the environment.
The solution provided by Sanchez and his teammates, which led to their first place recognition, was a process they developed to reclaim the gas from the emissions and treat it with a simple chemical process. The reclaimed products from that process would then be diverted back into the ocean where they would be neutralized.
“We did a lot of brainstorming,” Sanchez said. “When I first heard we would be working with kids from other schools, I was nervous. Once I met the people on my team, I felt more confident. We got to know each other and worked together very well. Now we’re staying in touch on social media.
“We all came up with ideas, reviewed and evaluated each one, including the pros and cons, then came up with a final plan. What was very cool was we put all our ideas together, which I think contributed to our success.
“Our process included the use of limestone water, making it a safe solution for the environment. It’s even beneficial as limestone water contains nutrients. It’s already found in sea water—sea shells contain the same compound.”
The CHS junior, who wants to be a mechanical engineer, was optimistic about his team’s project as it left their hands to be reviewed by judges.
“I had a hunch we had the best project,” he said. “We put a lot of work into it — including some great teamwork. Our work really flowed. I felt we were in the top three.”
Peña, who accompanied the Cleburne delegation on the trip to College Station, was very pleased with the Aggie Invent Junior experience given to all four of his students. To have a Cleburne student on the winning team was an added bonus.
“As Jose’s teacher, I was impressed with how quickly he meshed with new people from other schools,” Peña said. “Jose worked with his team members to overcome a mountain of questions about the problem they were faced with, and together they did the research and brainstorming, like we have learned to do in class, that led to some good early designs. Jose has a personable character, and he kept the team’s spirits up, while posing questions to others about their ideas in the process of making the design better. I think Jose understands better, now, the importance of all our class teamwork activities, and is even more motivated to continue in his studies.”
Sanchez said Aggies Invent Junior has given him insight as to what it is like to be an engineer.
“This gave me a hands-on experience as to how engineers work together to solve problems—just like we did,” he said. “It has really affected my degree plan. I know what I want to do.”
He also knows where he would like to go following high school. While Texas A&M was already on Sanchez’ college application list, spending time at the campus moved it to the top.
“I may start at Texas State Technical College, which is a really good school,” he said. “I know I want to be a mechanical engineer. I’ve always liked learning how things work. What I’d like to do is work as a mechanical engineer for a large automobile manufacturer. Mr. Peña says in 30 years we won’t have gas-powered cars anymore. Instead they will be electrical. That interests me.”
Going to college is a goal Sanchez’ shares with his cousin, who lives in Del Rio, and is the same age.
“We want to be the first in our family to achieve a college degree,” he said. “My family is really proud of what I did at Aggies Invent Junior. I’m really happy, too, and I want to continue to make my parents proud.”
In addition to his studies in engineering, Sanchez is also a participant in the Architecture Design program at CHS. He is a midfielder on the Jackets soccer team.