A group of five Elizabethtown College students competed in and won the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Susquehanna Section Capstone Award at the first-annual competition, which recognized the best undergraduate Capstone project in the Susquehanna area earlier this summer.

The students, Alejandro Chicas ‘21, Donato Grimaldi ‘21, Andrew Fisher ‘21, Alexander Koontz ‘21, and Clark Williamson ’21, beat groups from multiple other regional engineering programs, including those at York College, Penn State Harrisburg, and Shippensburg University. The project was collectively mentored by several faculty members in the Department of Engineering and Physics, including professors Tomas Estrada, Brenda Read-Daily, and Kurt DeGoede. The group also received writing mentorship from the Director of the Bowers Writers House Jesse Waters.

Their project, “Automated Hydroponics System,” involved the design and implementation of a hydroponics system on campus, located in the basement of the Baugher Student Center (BSC), to help Dining Services grow vegetables. The work was praised by the IEEE panel of judges because of its collaborative, interdisciplinary nature.

One of the team’s faculty mentors, Associate Professor of Engineering & Physics Tomas Estrada, said that the students succeeded at integrating different strands of engineering, working effectively as a team, and communicating their ideas through an effectively written report.

“I loved that the students were so motivated to design a system that would have an impact on campus,” said Estrada. “The students were fantastic at navigating how to make the project a reality even with pandemic complications. I also appreciated how students integrated different aspects of engineering seamlessly in one project.”

Estrada says he felt extremely proud when he heard of the team’s victory.

“It felt great that the work that we do here at Etown Engineering would be valued and recognized in a competition amongst multiple schools in the region,” said Estrada. “It confirms what excellent work our students and faculty do!”