Sacramento State’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is a small but scrappy organization committed to ensuring that its members excel in their respective fields of engineering, science and other technological professions.
That is precisely what SHPE did last weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio, by winning the National Academic Olympiad, besting teams from MIT, UC Berkeley, Stanford and Georgia Tech. The victory was all the more sweet because it underscored the society’s core value of academic exceptionalism.
That value pervades SHPE’s outreach efforts to promote higher education to hundreds of local and regional youths with academic potential who might not otherwise attend college. Last month the organization hosted a science night for K-12 students and their parents.
For sheer potential, however, it’s hard to overstate the significance of SHPE’s first national championship Reaching the second round of last year’s regional was as far as a Sac State team had advanced.
The national competition required the strict application of math and science principles to engineering. Each team had to field questions and provide responses under considerable pressure.
All four winning team members are juniors. Ariana Castillo, Manuel Ramirez and Felix Ortiz are Civil Engineering majors. Philip Booker’s major is Computer Engineering. Together they prevailed in a 50-question written exam against regional squads from UC Berkeley and Stanford.
The seven regional winners then moved on to“Jeopardy”-style competition. After the first round, Sac State was in fourth place. SHPE then surged to take the lead by 300 points for the final question. After wagering 400 points and answering correctly, the team claimed the crown.
SHPE President Joshua Iniguez, a junior civil engineering major, chose the four team members the day of the competition. As regional champions the Sac State students received compensation for their hotel and conference expenses and an additional $100 for travel. As national champions, each received $1,000.
Iniguez says the team forgot to bring a sophisticated calculator to help answer questions and had to make do with an outmoded one. But he hastens to add that the technological gap did not hinder the team’s will to win the National Academic Olympiad.
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