Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute

University of the Philippines - Diliman

EEI teams take nat’l design prize, give back

Two teams of graduates from the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute of the University of the Philippines Diliman (EEEI-UPD) placed first and second in the “SmarTer Energy” electronics design competition, part of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) program on SmarTer Philippines, which promotes the interplay and connectedness of science, technology and innovation to economic development.

The top team is comprised of Juan Paolo E. Espiritu, Martin Jude Z. Borja, Emilio Vicente T. Gomez, Carissa Norielle L. Cruz, and Kevin Matthew B. Yatco. They designed an ‘environmentally-friendly’ 3D printer that utilized recyclable printing material. 

“By using used water bottles, grocery bags, etc., not only does the printer material practically cost nothing, but also it provides a great opportunity to minimize our country's plastic waste generation, which can reach a disturbingly high rate of 5,600 tons of waste in a day,” says Espiritu. 

According to the group, they also wanted to boost awareness of 3D printing while overcoming the high cost of the printer and printing filament, which constrains its development as mainstream technology.  

The team expressed appreciation for their adviser, Dr. Manuel Ramos Jr. for his confidence in their skills. “He let us do everything, from design to construction, with some consultations every now and then. We learned more this way, as we were not spoonfed with what to do. We found it very motivating,” they add.  

They also envision 3D printing as having the potential for practical and popular use among diverse sectors. hat all sectors can utilize this technology. “Instead of manufacturing plastic products from scratch, we can recycle used plastic and turn it into anything, saving energy and resources in the process,” explains Espiritu. 

For their part, the runners-up developed an energy monitoring system for the commercial sector. Members of the team include Anthony Kristianne Tang (Electronics Engineering), Dan Neil Ramos (College of Engineering), and Anna Katrina ‘Ahko’ Gomez (Electrical and Computer Engineering). 

The Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) of the DOST received more than 70 entries from across the country. Of the 70 aspirants, only 34 made it to the next round. After the qualifying round, the 18 finalists demonstrated their work before the awarding ceremony at the Crowne Plaza on March 27. Third-placer Rizal Technical University was among the night’s big winners, with both of UP EEI’s two participating teams taking the top two prizes. 

“Our project is especially designed for buildings,” explains Tang, who hails from San Miguel, Bulacan. “It provides visualization of your energy consumption and shows them graphically through a web-based application.”

The competition, which ran from June 2013 to February 2014, is targeted to inspire innovation among electronics, electrical and computer engineering students to create practical applications of electronic products designed and manufactured in the Philippines. Qualified entries were given the maximum budget of P10,000 for materials and supplies to implement their designs. 

“There were previous EPRL projects developed for a smart grid project but all of them were intended for residential use. That is why we developed one for commercial use,” says Ramos, now a part of the Telecommunications R&D center, NetworkLabs, .  

With a concept shared by team advisers Dr. Jhoanna Rhodette Pedrasa and Dr. Michael Angelo Pedrasa, both EEE faculty members, a considerable portion of the budget was utilized for the hardware component of their project, including the purchasing of components and its packaging.    

“The project was their idea we just made it happen--they were like our parents for the project. They support us in everything throughout the project and the contest,” says Gomez, whose interests lie in microcontrollers and troubleshooting gadgets. “They gave us advice on how to solve the problems that we were encountering while making our project work. They mentored us for a good presentation. And they fed us with a lot of knowledge and pizzas!”

The team also credits their success to ideation as it distinctly catered to the commercial sector. “Most of the entries are for residential use and are just subsets of our project,” adds Tang. While she says its impact on energy sufficiency may not be directly evident, it addresses one of the key factors to promote energy conservation. “It only provides visualization but we think that with these functionalities, we enhance consumer awareness.” 

Good citizenship is one of the key values that the EEI instills among its students. Tang recalls how their course work has shaped their lives outside the university. “I remember during our EEE 23 lecture class, Dr. [Joel] Marciano (EEI Director) instilled into our minds that we must give something back to our  nation when we graduate and the best way to do that, at least for our profession, is to think of innovations and develop projects that will cater our country's needs  for technological advancement,” he says. “The EE 198 course may be the final hurdle of our undergraduate life but is also serves as a big opportunity to these things that I've mentioned."

Adds Gomez, “When you become part of UP, your thinking becomes different. The university always seeks and embraces new ideas and doesn't stick to the comforts of traditional learning. The university and the institute teach us to be open and think and discover new and awesome ideas for the good of the country and the world.”

Espiritu agrees with his assessment, sharing in their belief that the EEI brings the best out of its students. “We were taught not just the material, but rather we were taught how to study and learn on our own,” he says. “By learning the deep fundamentals of electronics design, we can more effectively apply them to real-world problems, which no amount of mere memorization can solve.”