Mechanical Engineers Take Top Awards At Conference

SOCORRO, N.M. October 27, 2009 – A group of 17 New Mexico Tech students made a big splash at the university’s first visit to the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award Conference in early October.

Tyler Bushnell, president of the campus chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, said the event was an excellent opportunity for New Mexico Tech students to show off their abilities in academic competitions and professional situations.

Alex Plonczak (left), Erika Sommers and Tyler Bushnell won awards in the College Bowl at the HENAAC Conference in Long Beach, Calif. Courtesy Photo

“The conference was really a great opportunity to get one-on-one time with recruiters and figure out what employers want,” Bushnell said. “We were able to network in the best way that I’ve ever experienced.”

Department chairman Dr. Warren Ostergren said he was impressed with the students for performing well, but also for taking the initiative to learn about the conference.

“This is something they came up with on their own,” he said. “The students in ASME were looking for opportunities and this was unique because of all the companies represented at the conference. It was a great opportunity to interface with companies that wouldn’t normally come to New Mexico Tech as part of our career fair.”

Bushnell said he was appreciative of financial support the students received from the university administration and from the Student Association to attend the conference in Long Beach, Calif.

Bushnell was on a College Bowl team that swept the competition. His team won every category and was crowned College Bowl champion.

“We had a really good showing at the College Bowl,” said Bushnell, who was drafted onto the Disney Imagineering team. "In the history of the conference, no team has ever swept the competition."

The College Bowl teams were sponsored by various national companies that attended the conference’s career fair. Students interested in competing visited the various booths, introduced themselves and explained why they should be selected for a College Bowl team.

Bushnell’s teammates on the Disney team included students from Illinois, Florida and California. During the competition, the teams were given non-technical tasks that tested their creativity, innovation, interpersonal skills and abilities to work together as team.

Alex Plonczak was on the Lockheed Martin team that placed third place in the College Bowl. Erika Summers was drafted by the NAVSEA team; she earned the award for being the top woman in the competition. In all, five Tech students took part in the College Bowl.

The other students who attended were Kendra Valdez, Adam Anderson, Matt Swanson, Dylan Paiton, Joe MacGillvray, Rebecca Vikers, Francisco Vigil, Shannon Fraley, Miquela Trujillo, Joe Lawson, Bushrah Hussain, Clay Thompson, Anselmo "Mo" Gallegos and Austin Silva.

The student conference targeted careers, linking employers with future engineers. The HENAAC organization promotes science, technology, engineering and math careers, especially in underserved communities.

Each team was coached by recruiters and executives from the sponsoring companies. Bushnell said working with professionals was an amazing experience.

He also said New Mexico Tech got plenty of visibility through the College Bowl and the other functions.

“During the college and career fair, a lot of us were recognized,” Bushnell said. “Three of us got awards during the final dinner and that gave us good visibility too. I think it was pretty impressive since it was the first time New Mexico Tech has made an appearance at the HENAAC conference.”

Bushrah Hossain, a biology major and an ASME member, said the conference was a rewarding experience in many ways. She was invited to several job interviews, which she said was a fulfilling experience.

“I think it was a really good decision to go,” she said. “I think we should definitely try to go on a yearly basis. It’s a good opportunity for students.”

Hossain said New Mexico Tech’s visibility during the awards ceremony can only help future students who attend HENAAC events.

“Getting those awards really showed that New Mexico Tech has a lot of really smart students with a lot of potential,” she said. “I think that really will help our school to be recognized by company recruiters.”

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech