Five engineering students earn top prizes at national STEM convention

Tessa M. Woodring
December 17, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Five Penn State College of Engineering students received prizes for both their engineering and problem-solving skills at the 2019 Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) National Convention, the country’s largest gathering of Hispanic students and professionals in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

A team of three Penn State engineering students received the third-place prize for their performance in the Innovation Challenge: Engineering with a Purpose. Enmanuel Jose (EJ) Salgado, an aerospace engineering junior; Randy Blanco, a mechanical engineering junior; and Alejandro Andrade Salazar, a graduate student in computer engineering, created a new service solution in the 48-hour hardware, cybersecurity and software challenge where participants work to help solve real-world issues. 

“Although only one Penn State group received an award in the Innovation Challenge, we had three Penn State teams that made it to the final round,” said Helen Edson, director of campus outreach in the Center for Engineering Outreach and Inclusion and adviser to Penn State SHPE. “This in itself is a great accomplishment as this challenge is very competitive.”

The Innovation Challenge gives students the opportunity to look for solutions that would specifically benefit individuals without bank accounts or with under-utilized financial services in the United States, South America and Mexico. The students’ solutions ideally would help 1.8 billion people, including 20 million homeless individuals. The Penn State team specifically worked on correcting food scarcity in the unbanked and underbanked population. 

“At first, it was tough getting all of our ideas together, but we were able to work toward the common goal of creating an application to help keep track of the food discarded by suppliers and allow nonprofits to use this data to distribute the food to homeless people,” Salgado said.

Two Penn State engineering students earned prizes in the Extreme Engineering Challenge (XEC), a nonstop 24-hour competition where students must design, develop and promote a working product. Isabella Perez, a first-year engineering student, placed first in the challenge, and Isabella Gayoso, a first-year engineering student, placed third.

“Placing first in the Extreme Engineering Challenge was surreal,” Perez said. “When I won, I was shocked but really grateful that I even had the opportunity to participate in the convention and be a part of SHPE.”

In order to compete in XEC, students must first interview with corporate sponsors. Qualifying students are then selected and put on teams to compete. 

“An early start is never a bad thing,” Perez said. “Going to the SHPE Convention as a first-year student helped me learn what I need to do to get a summer internship next year. Also, I met amazing people from different universities and companies along the way.”

A total of 42 Penn State students attended the 45th annual SHPE National Convention held from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3 in Phoenix. In addition to having the opportunity to participate in various competitions at the convention, students also attended numerous workshops that focused on successful skills in academics, leadership, career development and personal growth. 

“Students leave the conference very energized, more confident and with a feeling of empowerment,” Edson said. “It is truly an awesome experience.”

The 2020 SHPE National Convention will be held Oct. 28 to Nov. 1, 2020, in Denver. 

Penn State SHPE provides opportunities to develop leadership and technical skills, network with companies and support each other academically and socially. Please contact Julia Soalheiro, president of Penn State SHPE, at for more information on upcoming events and how to join and support.


(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 03, 2020