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Driven to succeed

01:22 AM March 05, 2015

I would have just settled with being an average student whose only aim was to graduate on time, but one experience changed my perception of success.

In February last year, I became part of an exhilarating event—a prestigious international competition where we engineering students were put to the test in terms of skills and ingenuity.

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My classmate, who happens to be one of my best buddies, asked me a few months earlier if I wanted to join their team that wished to compete in Shell Eco-marathon Asia. At first, I just laughed at the thought because it felt like a waste of time, energy and money to build something seemingly impossible: a fuel-efficient car of the future.

I really didn’t believe in the project at that time, but my buddy pushed me to join the team. He told me that I should give it a try and that I could leave the group later if I wanted to. I agreed to join the screening, submitted my academic standing, and got accepted.

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I finally met the team that I would be working with; I found that the team members really had a passion for making a unique eco-car to represent our university in the competition. This is important because many other schools from all over the world participate in the yearly event, where engineering students are challenged to put the concept of sustainable mobility into practice.

The aim appeared to be something that I related to as well. I found myself catching on to the spirit of the team and not wanting to leave. We started planning and scratching out a lot of ideas in the process. We exchanged thoughts and sometimes found ourselves bursting into laughter over jokes. Most importantly, we were building camaraderie first.

However, lack of financial support was a fundamental problem. We all knew that our school, being a state university, cannot provide us the funding we needed to build our eco-car. Thus, we approached various companies with sponsorship letters, and patiently waited for their responses.

Meanwhile, one of our colleagues brought up the idea of raising funds by selling candies to our schoolmates. I myself went to Divisoria almost every day to buy heavy bags of candies. It was really so tiring that I almost wanted to quit.

Fortunately, one of the companies we had approached finally responded to our letter and gave us the chance to present our sponsorship request. The result was that it gladly agreed to be one of our sponsors and gave us enough money to start our project.

We built our vehicle in the cheapest possible way. We gathered scrap materials so that we could reuse these later. We even bought a surplus engine even though it was a risky decision, in order for us to save money. Instead of sending some parts of our vehicle to a machine shop to be fabricated, we decided to produce them on our own.

I remember the times when our team would deliberate on how to utilize our remaining funds, with tons of things still left to spend on. It was like thinking of how to take a bath without using water. It left us no choice but to contribute some of our own money.

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In a way, working on the project pushed our resourcefulness and creativity to the limit. Instead of fiberglass, we thought of an alternative material for the covering of our vehicle: We used banig. It seemed just as fine, and our vehicle caught a lot of attention as well every time we tested it on busy streets.

Just to be able to complete our entry, we stayed overnight on the school grounds for almost two weeks leading into the competition, instead of spending our Christmas break with our families.

All my exhaustion faded when I finally saw our eco-car running for the first time. Relief overcame me and I broke into a huge smile. It was like we had already won the competition when it was only the beginning.

Indeed, even if we eventually failed to set a record in the competition, gratitude defined our loss. The camaraderie that our team had built gave us all the reason to be happy and to be thankful. We did not just complete a project; we also formed a family that I will endlessly treasure.

In fact, our loss did not stop us from setting our sights on joining the competition once more. It encouraged us to improve and enhance our skills to be able to excel even more.

Failure may not be a good start, but we know that it is just a part of learning new things. It will never stop us from passionately doing what we want. We are invigorated to push our limits and to go beyond what we all know we are capable of doing.

And this year, from being a supporting member, I am now the manager of our team, the PUP-Hygears. A year has passed since that fateful day when my friend asked me to join them. It is a major leap for me. And my passionate team mates fuel my desire to set my heart on achieving our common goal.

This new journey makes me feel excited to see how my life and my perception of the world will change once more. I know that someday, I will look back on all these memories and learnings, and I will never regret anything.

Maria Linnea V. Dimaano, 21, is a fifth year mechanical engineering student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

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TAGS: fuel-efficient car, goals, perseverance, Shell Eco-marathon Asia, Success
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