After six month of welding, cutting, sanding and sleeping on the old couch in the lab, Team UP Dagisik from University of Philippines Electrical & Electronics Engineering Institute will travel to Sepang International Circuit near Kuala Lumpur, along with its newly built battery-powered concept car, for the Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2019 from April 29 to May 2. Contending for its first championship since 2015, the team sees its strength in great chemistry among teammates built through years of close collaboration in academic work, as well as their internship with Power Integrations last summer.
All but one member of the 18-person team are from the EEE Institute’s Power Electronics Laboratory under the leadership of Faculty Advisor Chekov Castillo, who was himself a member of the inaugural UP team that won Eco-marathon Asia in 2011. Five core members of this year’s team were trained together in a lab course taught by Castillo, including Team Manager Christian Ong, Mechanical Head Charles Cayno, Battery Management Head John Kent Bermudez, Administrative Officer Sharmaine Arabelle Marcos and support team member Jonelle Jalosjos Retorca. All five interned with PI last year, along with 15 other students from the same lab.
“I like this year’s team. Everybody is hard working and we get a lot of things done,” Marcos said. “Each person’s skill is maximized. We are tasked with things that we are best at. It makes us more productive as a team, and gives each of us a purpose and makes us feel special.”
Castillo’s training course not only produced a tightknit group of friends, it also established Ong as the consensus leader and nurtured his passion in motor control, which he applies to the BLDC motor drive board of the team’s ultra-efficient concept vehicle.
“I was a computer engineering major when I met Sir Chek,” said Ong, now a fifth-year student with motor control as his graduate project. “I admire him, and we became friends. I shifted to electronics communication engineering during my third year so I could learn from him. I love motor control because it’s probably the hardest power electronics. It includes not only power electronics but some digital processing, communications and programing. It’s really complicated, and I was drawn to the challenge.”
With Castillo’s help, Ong recruited his lab partners and fellow PI interns to form the new Team UP Dagisik and presented sponsorship plans to Power Integrations.
“The power engineering field is very small in the Philippines,” Castillo said. “It’s especially important for the school to maintain close working relationships with major employers like Power Integrations. We try very hard to provide the kind of training that makes our graduates a good fit for these employers, and a high-level competition like Eco-marathon provides a great opportunity for the school and the sponsor to build a connection.”
Best-friend duo Joseph Vallo and Akira Morita interned together on PI’s LED driver team. They are now in charge of the car’s electronic control and LED drivers. “We learned about the internship through our lab and met interviewers from Power Integrations, “said Morita, who chose LED driver as his graduate thesis after the internship. “At PI, we performed tests on design examples to eliminate magnetic interference problems in compliance with industry standards. I realized that while LED looks simple, there are a lot of challenges involved. Most of my curiosity for LED came from my PI internship.”
Complementary in both personality and engineering skills, Vallo and Morita became inseparable ever since they joined the power electronics lab three years ago. Vallo is the only computer engineering major in the lab while Morita is more knowledgeable in communications electronics. “Problem solving has become a habit for us,” Morita said. “We never do anything on the car without consulting each other. That makes it easier to perform checks and revisions.”
Winning two Shell Eco-marathons in Asia since 2011, Team UP Dagisik has become a hotbed for engineering talent, producing eight UP faculty members and many researchers for the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology. In addition, six team alumni are currently employed by Power Integrations in the Philippines, including Applications Engineer John Patrick Baduria, who recently travelled to California to build the product launch demo for PI’s new InnoMux chipset for TV and monitor power supplies.
“The competition provided hands-on experience I couldn’t get in the classroom. I was ahead of my peers in practical skills because of it,” said Baduria, who first joined the team in 2015 and became the driver a year later as a graduate student.” The Eco-marathon helps students build connections with sponsors and professors. It also links them with resources from other departments in the school. It’s a wonderful experience for car enthusiasts.”