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Even 100-level engineering course can pay off

April 20, 2010

ASU engineering students find ways to apply their education to the world beyond the classroom well before they graduate. But few see that happen after taking only an introductory course.

Ruby Gomez, a freshman aerospace engineering major, used what she learned in MAE 110: "Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 100" to help her team clinch first place in a national student competition at a recent Mexican-American Engineers and Scientists National Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Tex.

Her team impressed the competition judges with a business proposal for a mock company that had to solve a low-productivity problem.

Gomez applied the Team Spirit Model. The model helps teams become service-oriented as they perform projects that address business and engineering issues. She learned about it in the introductory class taught by Steve Trimble.

Gomez made a poster that illustrated how the Team Spirit Model could be used to help remedy the company’s problem. Her team bested 12 others in the competition.

“Ruby shows how a good student can immediately integrate new learning into society,” said Trimble, a professor of practice in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace, Chemical and Material Engineering, a part of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“Our goal for MAE 100 is to educate and inspire students to not only ‘think like an engineer,’ but also ‘do engineering’ right away,” Trimble said.

For the competition, Gomez worked with team members from various universities, including the University of Houston and San Jose State University.

The collaborative experience helped make the conference worthwhile, she said.

“Going to events like this makes me feel like I chose the right major," Gomez said. "Even though it’s challenging, it all pays off in the end.”

Along with a first-place certificate, Ruby and her teammates each won a 32GB iPod Touch, the Apple pocket computer and media player.

She plans to share her experience in the competition with students in Trimble’s MAE 100 class in the coming fall semester.

Gomez also is a member of the ASU student chapter of Mexican-American Engineers and Scientists Society (MAES).  She’s been elected secretary for the group for the upcoming 2010-2011 school year.

“I like MAES because the people there make me feel welcome and like part of a family,” she said.

Written by Jessica Graham