A Tale of Our Engineering Projects

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The Computer Engineering course is a hefty educational investment.

First, as a five-year degree course, there are at least ten semesters to pursue the route. (Not that it’s the longest of degrees to seek out there.) Sometimes it is longer. If things go wrong such as financial constraints, failure to cope up with subjects, and flunking due to lack of focus on studies, there is a risk that initial investment will yield zero results. Also, the projects involved are somewhat a realization of science fiction imagination — quasi-invention using real, expensive accessories, and leaned more towards failure than success.

Some kids take it as a fancy title they can hold on for a while.

“Computer engineering? Wow, high-tech man diay imo course. ‘Nya unsa man ang trabaho nimo ana? Computer technician? Kanang tig-ayo ug guba nga computer ba.” 

Graduation is a long way away, so we didn’t even imagine what kind of careers await us. For others, it’s a distressing sign that the course isn’t a good choice, at least for them. Parents might have selected it for them. (Hint: parents whose failed Engineering ambitions pass the baton to their kids to make dreams happen.)

Right out of high school, we were required to choose a course in college with little knowledge, or aptitude test to determine which bachelor’s degree to pursue based on our interests, math or social skills, or aversions.

We had CSAT, PACT, and a few other tests which I had good marks. But they were not utilized much except bragging rights for those with high percentile rank.

I took UPCAT, and passed Chemical Engineering admission to Los Baños campus of the University of the Philippines, but financial issues failed me. But I managed to secure another government scholarship and that techie course name from a list of eligible courses caught my attention.

As a cutting edge program (for such reason the course got massive following in the ’90s), Computer Engineering does the unconventional way of proving one’s worth. Although projects are only shared in almost all disciplines, Computer Engineering students are driven by their innovative thinking and that technology unfounded yet are their masterpieces.

When the first few “techno projects” were unveiled midway through the course and after half of the initial roster of enrollees have drifted away, enthusiasm suddenly emerged. Whether it’s our first foray of dealing with complicated circuits or fantasizing over our childhood chores of assembling our Lego blocks, the interest was there.

The multi-tester project has always been the baptism of fire for the group. Its introduction somewhat changed a student’s lifestyle. More often than not, project-making is dragged up to the last hour before the deadline due to poor time management. And the consequences can be costly.

And while time is gold, time management is vital in managing such projects. Lack of self-confidence translates to group project making. Perhaps Psyche Martirizar, Erwin Alfevin Dino, or Jose Punongbayan can “host” tonight’s session. In doing so, those who do not have the tools (breadboard, connecting wires, power supply, typewriters, or dot-matrix printers can take advantage of such an opportunity).

The sky is the limit. Yet out of this world, thoughts prevailed in the early years. Our English feasibility study under Mr. Jesus Reyes in English 4A, our group — Marlon Pabilona, Raul Ramirez, Vincent Guerra, Harold Daron, Oscar Barabona Jr, Anecito Dumdumaya Jr, and Lawrence Pantalla — proposed a bulletin board system that will link Annex campus to the Main in Bankerohan. Exciting prospect but with a doubtful outcome, the group went to talk with PLDT people about the cost of having leased lines. Dismayed over the high price per leased line, the group made another talk to PT&T, PLDT’s less sophisticated rival.

On weekends, the group would go to Harold’s in Bangkal to work on one strength – the documentation, complete with schematic diagram, perspective layouts, cost of operation, and other justifications to overcome lack of practical know-how. But somehow, it served best as the subject was more focused on writing good technical papers rather than justifying what was written there.

Kita ta sa (gawas sa) Mercury Drug (along Bonifacio-CM Recto), alas 8 sa gabii. Ay 9:00 pm na lang. Pagdala ug chichiria ug soldering iron “, I overheard one classmate. “Panghulam ug breadboard sa kaila nimo nga higher year para naa koy magamit, “replied the other after the late Strength of Materials class of Engr Nardo Narisma.

Waiting is one of the hardest tasks to do, especially if the one you are waiting for has loads of alibis prepared. “Sorry ha, gisugo pa man gud ko palit ug spark plug sa motor sa akong papa, traffic kaayo sa Uyanguren uy!”

At a time when beepers outnumber cellphones with text messages, there is little chance of communicating with a mobile friend.

NAME OF PROJECT: Phone Patch

SCOPE/FUNCTION: Enable the ordinary telephone unit to receive or initiate calls from or to an RDO (radio). Operate the switching on/off of any gadget or appliances which require a connection from a 220V source.

GROUP MEMBERS:
Marlon Pabilona
Psyche Martirizar
Rosalie Taga-an
Kle Roger Lazaga
Jonilie Echavez

Breadboards cost hundreds of pesos, so are the resistors, connecting wires, and soldering rod. Much more to this is the convenience of family members of the ones who host the night’s project session. Guests come for dinner, watch TV, and do not start pulling out their devices until Charo Santos says bye-bye at Maalaala Mo Kaya. Except for those who get started with project work at the campus lab, overnights have since become a pastime that yield very low productivity.

“Sige, ikaw lang sa diha trabaho sa breadboard nimo kay sundugon nalang nako unya. Nindot man gud ning palabas sa HBO. Isa pa, puno na man mo diha sa la mesa.” The more reasons you state, the more justified your gatecrashing-just-for-dinner-and-snacks-and-TV thing becomes. Thankfully, no one revealed big bellies were shown yet as proof of our late-night junk food binges. It will come later in life.

Kle Roger Lazaga, Marlon, and Lee Anthony Taburno can attract lots of followers because of their uncanny ability to finish the job in no time. But while Lee can join groups, whoever invites him for the night, Marlon and Kle prefer to be secluded on their own homes after the proverbial “no thanks” to offers of “collaboration.” No wonder they finish their projects way before deadlines. Such actions even drew criticisms that they are selfish and unable to share their electronic skills. Armed with long nose, soldering iron and other tools, a pool of reference materials, they made a name for themselves as the most successful performers.

NAME OF PROJECT: Auto Refilling Conveyor Machine
Project Reference: DAIRY BEST FARM
Location: Malagos, Calinan, Davao City

SCOPE/FUNCTION:
The project was designed to auto-select specific volumes (set at 50ml and 100ml).
The prototype can be applied to a water refilling station or milk packaging unit with minimal start-up costs.

The scope of work was shared with each member included breadboarding (wires and gates IC’s), software programming, and hardware installation and civil works.
Using an old jeepney windshield wiper motor and cardboard, we able to create a mini-conveyor belt to fill and move to the exact location of the empty refill bottles.

GROUP MEMBERS
Vincent Guerra
Jonathan Ambong
Novee Saure
Jose Jr. I. Punongbayan

Ironically, yet understandably, overnights work worst on Friday nights. It was supposed to be ideal since all can have the luxury of extending the work till mid-morning the following day. But it has become one of the most unproductive days to some. “Kapoy kaayo akong brain huna huna sa quiz nato sa Circuits bai, magbanig na lang sa ko diri sa sala para kung gusto pod mo mag nap, ready na ni. Pukawa na lang ko pag alas-12 na sa gabii.”

Frowned upon hearing this, the host nods his head and continues to disassemble the Magus multi-tester. As expected, the sleeping friend braces for tough days by semester’s end.

With the extended time of stay at the host’s home, family members could even recognize who was knocking at the door. “Ah kaila na ko kinsa ning nanuktok.” Baldwin Baldos’s father would quip. And even dogs get tamed, baby nephews and nieces get used to strangers hugging and carrying them inside the house.

Moving forward to non-procedural projects – designs that used to linger in one’s fantasy – it was crucial to be in a group with diligent members who can work on their own as the cost of projects is much higher than in the past projects like drawing plates of Engr. Monsalud, students have the freedom to select group mates, preferably those they get along very well and have less conflict of schedules to deal with the projects. Most groups have both male and female members.

Under Engr Marlon’s Casquejo’s Advanced Logic class, group projects emerged for the first time. Learning from the underlying logic teachings of Engr Allan Gierran, enthusiastic fourth-year students have pushed the limits on how these learning foundations will be used. From triggering solenoid to remote access, logic comes into different shapes and sizes. From then on, the group projects spawned little groups we call “barrios” where members spend more time with each other and less on “outsiders.” With a group concentrated on one particular project, members are delegated to buy materials, do research, submit project proposals, spend weekends together.

NAME OF PROJECT: Keyboard Tester

SCOPE/FUNCTION: To be able to invent a stand-alone device that will check the continuity/functionality of each key (101 keys-Standard) without the hassle of using the software + CPU + monitor.
GROUP MEMBERS:

1) Baco, Lovella Concepcion D.
2) Dagaas, Rosamie
3) Malilong, Amerrynor A (+)
4) Montecillo, Raquel F
5) Victorio, Veda Joy P

This close collaboration sometimes leads to developing romantic relationships that other classmates may not seem to notice at first.

Pirmi lagi mo kauban niya. “Ay ‘langan, kauban man mi sa project. “

Even after the documentation has been submitted and the grades are released, the couple is still seen together. At this time, our raging hormones continue to manifest through a consistently present topic: the opposite sex: the Susan-Jopris romance, Marlon-Jonilie courtship, and seemingly random names of girls associated with Vincent and Lawrence. Over a bottle of beer, one’s failed love affair will dominate the story, as though he is the main actor of a soap opera. But in general, it was pure fun, for we are in our teens, and such topics will never bore us.

But not all collaborations last long, whether a romantic partnership or not. On a February night, when Jonathan Ambong, Ronald Celestial, and Ronald ‘Butch’ Andulana has decided to work the power supply project of Engr Abad’s Electronics 1 subject at a kababayan’s place, all circuitry seemed to work well.

By midnight, typically early by overnight’s standard, auto shut off features worked. It was a sign of a milestone that calls for a celebration. A bottle of two of the intoxicating Red Horse beer at Malativas, a stone’s throw away, seemed a perfect way to ease our stress. But Jonathan’s beer was digested in his brain and influenced his way of thinking. Influenced by James Hetfield or Phil Anselmo’s videos shown at the overhead TV set, this pal wailed “f*** you everybody” as the group started to move out of bar premises. A few students from the nearby University of Mindanao campus felt provoked and instantly surrounded the group, engaging us into a one-sided fist-fight. The last thing I remembered was I sprinted with Butch, who decided to go barefoot, towards C.M. Recto, and sought refuge in his friend/relative’s house. When the dust settled, Jonathan was left sitting in the pavement with a bruised eye and a ton of pride from the brawl.

NAME OF PROJECT: Computerized Free Falling Device System (CFFDS)

SCOPE/FUNCTION: The Computerized Free Falling Device System or shortly known as CFFDS eliminates the inaccuracy of performing experiments regarding free-falling bodies. As you could remember in our Physics lab experiment about free falling bodies, it would take several persons to perform such research. One would be releasing an object from a certain vertical distance, and another would be starting the time clock and stopping it as soon as the object touches the ground and another person to measure such height or vertical distance. Such a manual method would inevitably lead us to inaccurate findings or results. Seeing the inaccuracy in such an experiment, we were able to have an idea of making it automated and computerized.

Through the materialization of our idea, we were able to make such an experiment an accurate one. The CFFDS would automatically pick up the metal ball and bring it to the desired height the user pressed or opted on the front panel.
The moving up of the metal ball is then simulated on a monitor showing its movement from the time the metal ball was picked up, brought to a certain level or height, and later released. As the metal ball is released, the timer would then start and end as soon as the metal ball reaches the drop point or level zero. The time is then registered and displayed at the front panel and the monitor, as well. Thus, the inaccuracy of such a manual experiment has been eliminated.

GROUP MEMBERS:
Lawrence R Pantalla
Anecito V Dumdumaya Jr
Ronald S Andulana
Charlemagne Nambong
Danilo Quevido

Lawrence checking the circuits on CFFDS (check article for acronym meaning). Photo credit: Lawrence Pantalla

The group disbanded after submission of the power supply project but somehow managed to reunite at the school cafeteria or Ben and Beth’s carinderia.

Other groups don’t seem to bode well. After some differences in philosophy (whether in life or logic), group members leave and prefer to work on their own. Worse, renegade (or whatever you call them) members don’t talk anymore with team leaders.

Seeing other then-freshmen friends have graduated in their respective four-year courses, it was time for the final test. About 60% of those who enrolled in our freshmen year pursued other courses, got married, or maybe dropped out of school. But the ones who remain do not necessarily mean intellectually-gifted, at least there’s perseverance. Whether it was translated positively (thinking hard to learn Assembly Language lessons) or negatively (trying hard to copy Assembly Language assignments), it depends on who you are referring to.

With recently-graduated predecessors becoming instructors, it was a walk in the park trying to win their nod on each group’s proposal and rationale.

Ah! approve man gain to ni Moso ug ni Casquejo, siya pa ba?”

But sometimes, it just does not go it is the way. Raul once had a disgusted look, sitting on the tiled floors across the former Annex Library, which now hosts the Audio-Visual Room.

Wa ko kasabot ngano dili daw pwede ning among project, “referring to his instructor’s remarks on checking their project. Other members Rizza Rizada, Liezl Bravo, and Jumar Donque, sat silent, staring at the ground. With such experiences, many groups have shunned away from their previous projects and chose the more scientifically accepted laws of Physics. Two groups readily adopted it. Projectile motion simulator became the pet project of Ariel Falcis and company while Dums and his crew selected the more challenging free-falling velocity.

These projects were littered with bad experiences: rejected project proposals, bruised egos, and burned fingers. But others have good storylines to tell. One especially inspiring experience was that of the all-female group of Raquel Montecillo, Amerrynor Malilong, Lovella Baco, and Veda Joy Victorio. Often facing adversaries and the common stereotype that women are inferior to men in this field of work, the quartet quietly made a stir when they were among the first who finished their project, without the long overnight sessions. They occupied the corner at the Microprocessor and Digital Lab. While others were busy playing that Dyna Blaster bomb game and waiting for other group mates to arrive, Veda Joy was about to finish their documentation.

Projects, as tangible yet inanimate as they can be, could even be a reason for shedding tears too. When working for the free-falling acceleration simulator, the team of Butch, Lawrence, and Dums had some troubles. Results do not yield close to the widely accepted velocity. Having checked everything to be working, including transistors, power supplies, and timer sensitivity to calculate results, Dums, who was sleepless for days, just had to cry his frustrations out. Thankfully, it was a sob of motivation rather than a sign of surrender.

Six years later, the black hardbound laminated documentation may have been borrowed at the library a hundred times, or stolen for safekeeping and sold at the black market for a hundred bucks, the memory remains. Whether it was Jonathan’s black eye, Reynante vs. Deozar wrestling match during the exhibit, or Flint and Jose’s dance number at the presentation to the parents, it was in the essence of diligent project making. From the proposed Digital Bulletin Board Marlon envisioned to the remote-controlled security system his group implemented, it was a sign of things to come.
The entire class may have copied ideas from Sleepless, the theme of the previous year’s Engineering showcase when it launched Unleashed. Nevertheless, it came out with its style, inspired by the successes of its predecessors. And even if it comes as an expensive investment and unsure of returns, the experience was worth more than the tuition fees, project costs, and personal allowances combined.

Post Script:
We can only wish our projects were given more life and allowed to flourish if proven to be commercially viable, and not just a requirement to pass the course. If the more prestigious submissions got support from say, Department of Science and Technology, or TESDA and harness the talents of engineering wannabes, we would have more concrete evidence we were once part of that team. Instead, we confine ourselves to memories — like reading this article — that we once proudly built these fantastic projects.

So even if Computer Engineering is a costly course to pursue, it was all worth it. It taught us not just computer engineering but life-long skills of resilience and building and taking care of relationships.

ABOUT UIC BATCH 97

We are members of the University of the Immaculate Conception (UIC), class of 1997, approximately the fifth batch of the course program to finish the curriculum in the University. UIC used to be called Immaculate Conception College and became a university when we were freshmen.

We belonged to an era of post-new wave and in the midst of punk rock age; entirely during the administration of former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos. Davao City was peaceful and progressive under the leadership of Mayors Rodrigo R. Duterte and Benjamin C. De Guzman. The City registered double digit growth in investments and revenue income.

The President of the institution was Sr. Raphaela Singson of the RVM congregation but her stint during our stay in UIC was short as she was replaced by Sr. Ma Jacinta De Belen. Sr De Belen was then replaced by Sr. Ma Consuelo Alvino towards the end of our term.

Being with the University in its inauguration year as freshmen we were proud to be in an institution that prides itself with talented pool of professionals with excellent educational facilities. UIC is in itself a class of its own in various fields such as Medical Technology, Pharmacy, Education and Engineering. UIC is the first to open our course, Bachelors of Science in Computer Engineering in the whole of Mindanao, a remarkable vision of what’s to come in computer technology. The fact that the school opened our course, the industry of computer technology was limited in scope compared to now. By the time we graduated, the Internet Bubble began to grow which triggered further excitement in opportunities in our field.

Our stay in the University has been eventful. We were on our third year when collective bargain agreement between the faculty union and the administration wore off and resulted to a strike and lockout of our classes. A much more tragic event was the rape-slay of a Commerce student supposed to walk with us in the same year of our graduation. A so-called rebellion by student leaders also took place during our reign demanding the ouster of then President Sr De Belen.

Student vigilance grew and as a manifestation to that, student government has evolved from mere handpicked leaders to elected officers by virtue of the then newly-established Student Supreme Government by-laws. Vigilance also spread in the media where the alleged administration dummy, The Collegiate Immaculate (TCI) sought membership to the College Editors Guild of the Philippines. There was also a healthy competition between TCI and SSG-backed University Forum in promoting welfare of students while informing them of current events.

Our class has been taking pride of the fun we shared in the five years we were together may it be in classroom or in any extra curricular activity. We were together to denounce the 1993 bombing of San Pedro Cathedral; we were together on fact finding mission in the hills of North Cotabato; we were together in Super Ferry on our way to Manila and Baguio for our Study Trip as well as in cities such as General Santos; Digos and the outskirts of Davao City; we had fun in the sun at Palm Hill Beach Resort in Samal Island, arguably our last trip together before graduation.

To conclude, we’re ready to remember the past and share the present and future with everyone in the group as we collaborate in this website.

ABOUT THIS SITE

Hello and welcome to the Internet home of UIC Computer Engineering Class of 1997. We are a family of professionals molded at the University of the Immaculate Conception, in Davao City, the Philippines, bound together with the same set of interests and skillsets. It has been years since we got together and firmly believed that while it’s not impossible for a grand reunion to take place in the future, an easier and more convenient way of coming together is by producing a homepage for us.

AT A GLANCE

WEB DEVELOPMENT TEAM

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you: Engr Allan Gierran, Engr Rey Deypalubos, Engr Jun Abad, Engr Leo Usa, Engr Ray Moso, Engr Louis Nadela, Engr Rolando Baes, Engr Erlinda Solito, Engr Ellmar Rosales, Engr Minette Ybanez, Engr Caballo, Engr Magallen, Engr Marife Negrido, Engr Juvenal Bajo, Mr Jesus Reyes, Ms Lumain, Mrs Lucia Escudero, Mrs Agton, Engr De Leon, Engr Ubas, Engr Mercado, Engr Ian Bernales, Engr Randy Gamboa, Engr Raganas and the entire UIC Faculty for implanting knowledge into our brains; nobody can take them away from us; Chris Sofe for forming the Yahoogroups, King and Amy for the articles and photos, Flo, Joshua, Psyche and Joel for being featured in the Q&A;, Baldwin and Raul for the news items, Lorellee for the Taiwan info, Jonilie for the article about Makati. Allan, Mark, Raul, Rosamie, Ana May and Baldwin for the baby photos. And those not mentioned but played a part in this endeavor. Mabuhay, Batch97!

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