Juan Borbon, second from left, and the Rice University Solar Car Team placed second for its Solar Power Prototype at the Shell Eco-marathon Americas compeition in downtown Houston.
Year after year, SPC has helped place students on the path to reaching their dreams. But the success stories don’t always start at the college level; they start as early as high school. The staff at SPC’s Collegiate High School has been equally effective in paving the pathway for students to recognize their dreams.
Collegiate High School graduate Juan Borbon was a dreamer, who is now watching his dreams come to fruition. A freshman majoring in Mechanical Engineering at Rice University in Houston, Borbon realized his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer was within reach when he joined SPC’s Innovative Engineering Club at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. Now on full scholarship at Rice, Borbon in his first year has had some exciting experiences. During his first semester, Borbon joined the Rice Solar Car Team in building an energy-efficient vehicle to use to compete against 130 other teams in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas. The road to the competition, which took place March 30 in downtown Houston, proved challenging. Novices to the world of building solar cars, Borbon and his team had plenty of work to do in a short time, beginning with raising the funds and acquiring the resources they would need before starting construction.
“By the end of the semester, we had $90,000 in sponsorship and $10,000 worth of donated software,” Borbon said. “We did run into one problem though … by the time we were fully funded, there were only three months left until the competition.”
The time constraint would only add more pressure to an already tense situation. Not only did the Rice Solar Car Team have to work quickly, but also efficiently if it wanted to place in the competition.
“To be honest, we didn’t expect to win because our design was too rushed,” Borbon said.
Therefore, instead of setting their sights on a win this year, the Rice team decided to use the event as an opportunity to announce the university’s presence in the solar car racing world and set up the platform to compete at a higher level in the future against industry leaders like Stanford, University of Michigan and MIT. The decision proved to be a win-win situation for the team and the university, as the team’s Solar Power Prototype took second place in the solar category.
“I don’t know how or why we did so well, but I haven’t been this happy in a while,” he said. “With second place under our belt, our team has much more support. I am very confident that from now on it will be easier to acquire the funding to build the winning solar car for next year’s competition.”
Borbon attributes his success to the nurturing and motivation he received from the Collegiate High School staff. Before enrolling in the collegiate high school, Borbon said he really didn’t have a sense of direction and wasn’t even sure he would end up attending a university. But with the help and guidance of Collegiate High School staff, Yulonder Betts, Connie Boyle, and Principal Starla Metz, his life found direction.
“He is a remarkable young man, I’m immensely proud of Juan. In fact, he won an SPC award for our campus for his leadership in the engineering club when he was senior here,” Metz said. “That is what’s so wonderful about the collegiate high school, when students are on the college campus, they look around and all of a sudden the dream becomes a reality and they realize, ‘I am college bound. My dreams can come true, I can do this.’”
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