Temple College's Jennifer Ognibene and Mauricio Leza, front row center and right, celebrate t... Temple College's Jennifer Ognibene and Mauricio Leza, front row center and right, celebrate their gold medals with other medalists from across the nation at the SkillsUSA National Championships. Ognibene, Leza and teammate Lori Kliebert (not pictured) captured the gold medal for Engineering Technology/Design. (Photo courtesy of SkillsUSA)

Engineering technology students from Temple College’s SkillsUSA STEM Club competed in the SkillsUSA National Championships this summer and captured the gold medal in Engineering/Technology Design.

Teammates Jennifer Ognibene, Lori Kliebert and Mauricio Leza presented their design for the “Handibat,” a pneumatic device that allows children with disabilities to play baseball. Ognibene developed the idea of the Handibat after watching the struggle of several family members – including her son – challenged by Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which leads to muscle deterioration and gets worse over time.

The design, which first earned the gold medal at the Texas state competition in April, captured the nation’s top honor.

“Reaching the national champion level has been an experience like no other, and winning gold has been the goal I wished to reach from the beginning,” said Ognibene, who graduated in May with her associate degree in engineering technology. She served as the 2021-22 president of the club.

Club members Geraldo Pirela and Adrianna Rogers placed fifth in the nation in the Additive Manufacturing competition. They presented their design of an aerodynamic component that clips to the anti-asphyxia valve on a CPAP machine and keeps air from blowing in the CPAP user’s eyes during sleep. Their design won the gold medal at the SkillsUSA Texas College/Post-Secondary competition in Houston in April.

The national competition was the culmination of a year of many successes for the club.

In April, the club was named the Texas Gold Chapter of Distinction – the highest honor a chapter can receive – at the state competition.

In May, the group celebrated the grand opening of its SkillsUSA Prototype Lab in the College’s Watson Technical Center.

The SkillsUSA Prototype Lab was funded by a $15,000 grant from Lowes Home Improvement, which was awarded to the Club chapter earlier this year. Students in the club worked with Dr. Sandra Melendez, club co-advisor and department head of Temple College’s Department of Engineering Technology, to write the grant. Richard Askey, program lead for electromechanical engineering technology, also serves as a co-advisor.

The lab has six stations to design, engineer and build prototypes of all types of materials. Thanks to the Lowes grant, the space is equipped with new tools, including a band saw, scroll saw, table saw and drill presses.

“These students are wonderful,” Melendez said. “They are proof that STEM students from a variety of backgrounds can work individually and collectively to innovate and create products that will better their communities and the world. We hope their love for engineering technology – and the success they’re experiencing – will inspire others to pursue educational opportunities in STEM.”

Ognibene, who graduated in May with her associate degree in engineering technology, said her involvement in the organization was integral to her success in college.

“SkillsUSA STEM Club has become more like a family rather than just a school club,” Ognibene said. “Leaving this legacy behind, I hope many others can achieve their full potential in whatever their passions may be.”

The CADD Engineering Technology Department continues its momentum, bringing the newest program and pathways online in August. In Electromechanical Engineering Technology, a multi-craft program at the Temple Campus and Taylor Campus, students will learn safety, electricity, mechanics, hydraulics, pneumatics and automation. New pathways featuring mechanical design, AR/VR (virtual reality) 3D printing, robotics and construction technology also kick off in August.

For information about these programs, contact Melendez at (254) 298-8442.