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Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Ortiz, teammates take first prize in national competition

December 9, 2014

IUPUI student Ricardo Ortiz, left, teamed up with Ana Artiaga, center, and Nelson Grajales to win the top prize in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers national conference this fall. | PHOTO COURTESY OF RICARDO ORTIZ

IUPUI student Ricardo Ortiz, left, teamed up with Ana Artiaga, center, and Nelson Grajales to win the top prize in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers national conference this fall. | PHOTO COURTESY OF RICARDO ORTIZ

Mechanical engineering major Ricardo Ortiz of the School of Engineering and Technology made the most of a unique opportunity this fall, helping his design team claim first prize in the Nissan Design Competition at the national conference of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers in Detroit in November.

The IUPUI junior was one of the 24 students selected to compete in a process that challenged applicants to a solution to what each of them thought was the greatest issue facing mankind throughout the 21st century.

Ortiz’s team included Ana Artiaga, an agricultural engineering major from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Nelson Grajales, an electrical engineering major from the University of Houston. The three tackled the issue of fresh water scarcity and the poor access that many people have to fresh water around the world.

The team’s solution they proposed earned the three-member group the $10,000 top prize.

“We looked at the issue with a focus on agriculture,” Ortiz said. “According to our research, 70 percent of the world’s fresh water supply is used in agriculture, and 60 percent of that water is wasted due to inefficiencies in current irrigation methods,” based upon factors such as runoff and evaporation during the irrigation process.

Their solution impressed the judges.

“While researching, we found that there was a method more efficient than the rest: drip irrigation,” Ortiz said. “Drip irrigation performs at an efficiency of over 90 percent, because it drips water straight to the plant’s roots. The main reason this method is not used more widely is due to costs of the materials.”

The team’s cost-effective solution to this method? Use cardboard piping and a biodegradable hydrophobic coating called Green Coat.

“Cardboard has many benefits,” Ortiz said. “It is cheap, biodegradable and helps fight against weeds when it is in the ground.”

The competition ran for 72 hours and required teams to submit technical papers, research and presentations.

“Our solution got us to the top of the design competition,” Ortiz noted. “We got some pretty cool competition gear to distinguish us from the other conference goers and a $10,000 dollar check split evenly by the team. We were very proud of our accomplishments and glad that our hard work paid off.”