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Sac State underdogs beat Ivy Leagues

Posted On : December 3rd, 2010

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Sacramento State's Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers has competed in the annual National Olympiad since 1983. But this left a mark in the history of the 70-member organization as it came first place, beating out MIT, UC Berkeley, Stanford University and Georgia Institute of Technology.

"After winning the (National Academic) Olympiad, we had a confidence boost; Sac State is on the same level as these others," said junior civil engineering major Ariana Castillo, director of fundraising for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

Senior mechanical engineering major Ruben Velazquez said Sac State was the underdog who beat out champions MIT and UC Berkeley.

"(Sac State) is just as competitive as any engineering school," Velazquez said. "(Winning) shows that quality of Sac State in the College of Engineering and Computer Science."

The organization's president, Joshua Iniguez, chose four members to compete in the Olympiad. They are Castillo, Manuel Ramirez, Philip Booker and Felix Ortiz.

The four went into the competition without a scientific calculator and without taking advanced engineering courses. However, the team had their course material fresh in their minds, Iniguez said.

The first part of the competition included a test similar to the Engineer-in-Training exam, taken to obtain a professional engineering license, Velazquez said.

After they passed the first round, the team went on to the second part of the competition: the Jeopardy round. Teams each had one minute to answer questions on chemistry, physics, electrical engineering and aerodynamics. The Sac State team won with 1,700 points, while the second-place team scored 1,600 and other teams ended with zero.

Iniguez said the organization has been trying to win longer than he or the current members have been members, and winning the Olympiad shows future members that the Sac State chapter is moving in a progressive direction.

At 70 members, the Sac State chapter has the most members in its region, which includes cities from Bakersfield to the Oregon border, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Alaska.

Iniguez said one misconception about the organization is that it specifically caters to Hispanic engineering majors. However, the chapter holds events such as resume workshops, career fairs and study sessions that are open to all students.

"We do a lot of mentoring at high schools and that gets (teaching majors) familiar with students," he said. "At the job fairs, a lot of the companies are looking for business majors."

The organization also hosts an annual Science Night, which shows parents the importance of higher education and teaches kids about science, math and engineering. Every year, the event attracts more than 100 kindergarten through 12th-grade students.

The Science Night is how the organization is exposed to and gives back to the community, Gonzalez-Rocha said.

In 2009, the organization received recognition from the Sacramento City Unified School District for hosting the Science Night. In October 2008, the organization won Chapter of the Month.

To gather more community and campus interest in the organization, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers is hoping to work with other clubs and organizations at Sac State.

This school year, the organization will build a teeter totter for the Rotaract Club's second annual 24-hour fundraiser called Teeter-Totter-A-Thon, which hopes to raise money for a school in Argentina and help the country fight polio, said Raymon Pierce, president of Sac State Rotaract.

Michelle Curtis can be reached at

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