UCF engineering students earned praise and some job offers after they competed at Siemens Global University Challenge  in Germany this month.
Engineering giant Siemens sponsors the three-phase competition every year. It pits teams of the best engineering students in the world against each other for a shot at the top prize – a trip to Germany to showcase their project and meet potential future employers. Siemens is based in Germany and successful plans are implemented at the company’s Berlin plant.
UCF was one of the five teams and the only U.S. team selected from 33 to travel to Germany for the final phase of the competition this year tagged “Enabling the Digital Twin.” For non-engineers, that’s a real-time way for teams to communicate during the conceptual, design and prototype process in product development.
The final round is a week-long process that culminates with a shark-tank-style innovation hackathon. Officials from the company were the judges.
The teams didn’t have to build a whole system, referred to as the digital twin. They only needed to present a working prototype of an idea that would enable the digital twin and that could be seamlessly incorporated within Siemens established manufacturing and quality-assessment process.
“There was no actual winner or ranking,” said Marcel Otto, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at UCF and one of the team members. “We were all winners just being there.”
He described the final leg of the year-long competition as professional and exciting.
“I liked the supportive culture between the teams, the unique insight we got on-site in Siemens’ largest turbine-manufacturing facility worldwide. We worked late into the nights, coding, discussing our solution and models,” Otto said.
Connecting the engineering plan to a business plan and being able to sell it was the biggest challenge, for team member Kevin Bauer-Escalante.
“Being mentored in the art of presenting an effective elevator pitch was probably the most valuable takeaway from this unique experience,” Bauer-Escalante said. “We had to learn the lingo that connects the engineering idea with the business impact. Nowadays it is necessary to build this bridge in your head between the two different schools of thought, the technical and the business.”
Bauer-Escalante, who is pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, is also a graduate research assistant at UCF’s Center for Advanced Turbomachinery & Energy Research. He said he is still in awe of the experience and the opportunity the competition gave him to talk to some leaders in the industry. The trip also was his first one to Europe.
Team member Itza Beltran will graduate from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in May. Beltran said the competition was a way to get hands-on experience.
“The competition was open to any major, with an emphasis in engineering and business,” she said. “Collaborating between different fields is a key to success. I highly recommend students to get involved in projects or competitions where they can work with people from other disciplines. It is a rewarding experience.”
Jayanta Kapat, CATER’s director and team coach, said participating in competitions like these benefits students because it gives them real-life feedback and opportunities to connect with industry.
“UCF did very well,” Kapat said. “Our team just came back, with multiple job offers.”