A UST team composed of 11 Mechanical and five Electrical Engineering students, and four faculty members of the UST Faculty of Engineering named UST Eco Tigers I ranked first in the Prototype Diesel category of the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia (SEMA) 2019 held in May 2019 at the Sepang International Circuit, Selangor, Malaysia. 

The UST Eco Tigers I is the official team of the University of Santo Tomas for the Shell Eco Marathon Asia. It competed in the Prototype Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) category using Diesel energy source and came up with a record of 463 km/Liter beating the last year’s record of 352.5 km/Liter and the Philippine record of 388 km/Liter set at Shell Eco-Marathon Asia 2017 in Singapore. This was the team’s best record yet.

The team placed 8th in Asia from 26 participating teams under the Prototype ICE category and placed 1st under the Prototype Diesel category. It was the only Philippine university that received the ranking under the said category. It was followed by a university from Indonesia with a lower rank.

As to the UST team winning in the Prototype Diesel Category, UST Eco Tigers I 2020 Team Leader Ronald Vargas, Jr., said that for the past years, the Team had always thought that it had already reached its peak performance. 

“Given the skills and resources that we usually use in the competition, we then opted to improve and expand our individual set of skills focusing on our waterloos and improving our weakest points. We ventured into different techniques that we never realized we could apply on our project like the process of making carbon fiber composites, and using it to replace our previous vehicle’s body,” said Vargas. 

       2020 Team Manager Andrea Pauline De Guzman shared that the Team never had the experience to apply carbon fiber, and they thought that they were making a huge risk for the team. “We were hands-on but at the same time took precautions. We have been experimental in using carbon fiber. Making the almost perfect aerodynamic design, we prepared things from the fabrication of mold for the vehicle’s body, which took us a whole month to finish, up to the laying of the carbon fiber sheets. It was a tough job,” De Guzman explained. 

The team’s focus was to pull it off and make a huge advantage and guide for the future of the team. It was considered good progress that, compared to their previous vehicle, the vehicle weighed lighter by almost 10 kilograms. With a lighter vehicle, performance of the team improved providing the members more room for improvement and more features of the vehicle to focus on.

The students that comprised the team were in their fifth and fourth years: Janeir Niolo A. Roberto, Team Leader and 1st Driver; Melinda Michelle D. Virata, Team Manager and 2nd Driver; John Roy N. Talingting, Mechanic; Ronald C. Vargas Jr., Mechanic; Andrea Pauline D. De Guzman, Electrical; Alberto Nicole V. Bassig, Electrical; Alberto Miguel R. Trinidad, Design and Fabrication; John Raven O. Red, Machinist;  Jose Pascual C. Santos, Machinist; John Martin J. Mendoza, Fabrication; Eddeneil R. Pacay, Logistics; Franz Joshua A. Japlit, Design; Brian Russel S. Dizon, Assistant Electrical; Jayvie Gabriel Templonuevo, Assistant Electrical; Jao Antonio Perseverancia, Assistant Electrical, and Kyle Elijah Noel O. Zeta, Documentation. Faculty advisers were Engr. Rogelio O. Almira Jr., Engr. Mark Ivan C. Espinosa, and Engr. Raymundo M. Melegrito of the Mechanical Engineering Department, and Engr. John Michael S. Abrera of the Electrical Engineering Department.       

Roberto further explained that the team begins to prepare right after a competition. “We conduct scheduled meetings to plan and recall things that went wrong and think of further improvements that we can apply in the next competition.”    

However, for the 2019 competition, the schedule was not finalized earlier, and the students thought that the competition would not push through. When the official competition date was finally announced, they merely had three months to prepare. This challenge meant that they spent long hours after school at their ‘headquarters’ (Mechanical Engineering Laboratory).

  “We sometimes requested for the (Dean’s) Office to let us stay for the night so that we could finish our work on time, even if excuse letters had to be requested. The support of the administration and our faculty members was a big help. We think that the most memorable part of the competition were the times that we spent with each other working on the Prototype. We did not only succeed on building the vehicle, but we also made friends that eventually turned into a family. This has been the edge of our team since day one. We did not treat each other based on what each one can do, but we treated them as family and passed on the learning [to the junior members] from the very beginning of the preparation for this competition, “ De Guzman shared.

Of the 18 student team members who participated, three were in their fifth year, all under the Mechanical Engineering program. Incidentally, the 2019 SEMA Team Leader and First Driver Janier Roberto, the 2019 SEMA Team Manager and Second Driver Michelle Virata and Alberto Trinidad, whose task is Design and Fabrication, graduated in 2019.   

Recruitment is conducted by the team members themselves within a given application period and applicants are assessed on their capability and commitment to learn and undergo training.  The Team also considers attitude and potential skills. 

Vargas added that team values such as work ethic, hard work, willingness to do other tasks such as marketing and advertising, and working towards a common goal are important considerations when selecting new team members. 

According to Engr. Almira, one of the advisers of UST Eco Tigers I, the younger members are allowed to experiment on how they would do things, and their suggestions and comments are heard.  “With these, we believe that they will grow on their own techniques during the process, which will then create a big impact for the future of our team,” expounds Almira. 

The UST Team was one of the 11 teams representing the Philippines that competed in the 10th Shell Eco-Marathon that was held in Malaysia. The other participants were: De La Salle University Dasmariňas Stallions Hiraya, De La Salle University Manila Eco Car Team and DLSU Manila Eco Team, National University Prime Sprinter, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Agsikapin, Polytechnic University of the Philippines Hygears, University of Perpetual Help System-Dalta Atlas Valor, University of Santo Tomas Eco-Tigers I, University of the Philippines Diliman Dagisik UP and Alamat UP, and University of Mindanao UMindanao Wildcats.    

The Shell Eco-marathon Asia, according to its website, is one of the world’s longest running student mileage competitions that challenge teams to design, build and test ultra-energy efficient vehicles. The 2019 edition brought together over 100 student teams from 18 countries across Asia Pacific and the Middle East testing which car can go the farthest using the least amount of energy. Shell Eco-marathon is a global program that challenges bright student minds to design and build ultra-energy-efficient cars, and then put them to the test in competition.