Event Taking Place at Casa Bacardi on Saturday, February 27th, 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For the past seven years, two Cuban-American engineering organizations have been passing the baton to aspiring engineers with the “Cuba Infrastructure Scholarship Challenge,” an annual student competition where team projects will vie for a total of $12,000 in cash prizes plus non-tangible incentives like mentoring and networking. Under the auspices of the Cuban-American Association of Civil Engineers (CAACE) and the Association of Cuban-American Engineers (ACAE), this event will take place at Casa Bacardi (1531 Brescia Avenue, Coral Gables) on Saturday, February 27th, from 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Five teams representing Florida International University (FIU), University of Florida (UF), and University of Miami (UM), and totaling 16 students, will present projects to improve Cuba’s failing infrastructure. Focusing on environmental remediation, transportation improvements, solid waste management and climate change adaptation, these projects will be judged by the following professionals: Vladimir Cruz, Ph.D., Director of Agro Systems and Agriculture and Livestock Division, PonMas Corporation; Gabe Norona, P.E., Senior Vice President, Bentley Systems, Inc.; Rafael R. Palacios, P.E., Vice President of Engineering and Pre-Construction, Tropic Mechanical Contractors; Javier Rodriguez, P.E., Executive Director, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority; and Eduardo Vega, P.E., Senior Vice President, A&P Consulting Transportation Engineers, Corp.
“Every professional involved in these competitions is volunteering their time and talent for the betterment of society,” says Roger R. Puerto, a retired telecommunications senior manager who chairs the Scholarship Competition Committee. “We want to empower students with challenging projects that may be used one day in Cuba to improve its failing infrastructure, while feeling that we are contributing to the eventual reconstruction of our native country.”
While Puerto’s feelings are a common bond among his professional association peers, students are focused on growth. Sergio Claure is one of those students. Born and raised in Bolivia, he participated in two Challenge competitions before earning a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from UM in 2011. “I gained valuable experience working in a challenging academic project with real-world applications,” he says. “I also developed group leadership skills and was able to meet some great professionals and academics that would share their knowledge with me.”
First held in 2010 with three competing teams from FIU, UF, and UM, the competitions have grown in number of participants and financial supporters with cash prizes increasing from $1,750 in its first edition to a total of $12,000 plus $200 as individual participation incentive this year thanks to the financial support of Bulla Gastrobar, a restaurant in Coral Gables. “We are very thankful to one major sponsor, Bulla Gastrobar, and aim to keep growing the competitions in different ways like attracting additional Florida universities and expanding our student outreach outside Florida,” says Puerto. “By so doing, we will keep increasing our overall contribution to society and get more students motivated to improve the future of Cuba.”
The Cuba Infrastructure Scholarship Competition, which includes a light breakfast and lunch, is free and open to the public, but reservations must be made in advance by going to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2016-cuba-infrastructure-challenge-tickets-21285989969.
The Cuban-American Association of Civil Engineers Inc. (CAACE) is a non-profit corporation organized under the laws of the State of Florida on March 4th, 1961. The purpose of the association is to assist members in the maintenance of the highest professional engineering skills; to support the highest principles of professional engineering achievements and to obtain the advancement of the science and profession of engineering. Community involvement includes local government technical boards and committees, social services and charitable organizations. Guest speakers at monthly meetings present talks on technical, cultural or other topics of both national and local importance.
The Association of Cuban-American Engineers (ACAE) was founded in January 1961 through a gathering of Cuban exiles in Miami who set out to help those in their profession. Currently the ACAE fulfills its mission to help those in their profession by promoting engineering education, providing networking opportunities, and most recently addressing engineering-related issues in Cuba’s future, specifically with respect to the physical infrastructure. The ACAE promotes engineering education by encouraging student chapters of ACAE at local universities, and by promoting scholarship programs that award thousands of dollars in scholarships yearly to students of Hispanic and/or Cuban heritage. Networking opportunities are facilitated by the organization through its annual gala, which brings together over 300 engineering professionals to celebrate achievements of local engineering professionals and to be a part of an awards ceremony.
To look at videos and pictures of past competitions, go to:• 2015 Cuba Infrastructure Student Competition http://
clickeventonline.com/event/ education/150228- CubaInfrastructure2015.htm• 2014 Cuba Infrastructure Challenge http:// clickeventonline.com/event/ education/140222- CubaInfrastructureChallenge201 4.htm• 2013 Cuba Infrastructure Challenge http://www. clickeventonline.com/event/ education/130223- CubaInfrastructureChallenge201 3.htm• 2012 Cuba Infrastructure Challenge http://www. clickeventonline.com/event/ education/120225- CubaInfrastructureChallenge201 2.htm