Highest Honors

By Tony Lopez
Publisher and CEO

On May 4, 2024, I attended the graduation ceremonies of the 650 Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering graduates of Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, Georgia.

With over 5,800 engineering and sciences or STEM graduates yearly, and 100 professors, Georgia Tech is considered one of the best engineering schools in the US; No. 2, in fact, after MIT, according to the US News & World Report. As a public school, GT is the No. 1 mechanical engineering school in the US. GT runs one of the largest engineering programs in America. Yahoo Finance says the best engineers are produced by America.  And the best engineers of America come from Georgia Tech.

Among the 2024 GT mechanical engineering graduates is Enzo Lopez Cabaltica, my very first grandchild. He graduated with the highest honors with 3.7 GPA (Grade Point Average).

Enzo is used to being top in his class. In his US high school, he got the 3.98 GPA, also the highest honors.

Enzo’s parents are lawyers

Enzo is the eldest of three kids of Benedict Cabaltica and Ivy Lopez Cabaltica, my daughter. Both are graduates of Ateneo Law 1998. They went to the US in 2001 for higher studies and then stayed there for good.

Benedict is also a certified public accountant. He finished master of laws at the University of Pennsylvania, USA. My daughter Ivy took up real estate courses at Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania. As CPA-lawyer, Bene is one of the managing directors of KPMG, one of the Big Four American professional services firm.

Despite her law degree and Wharton studies, Ivy opted to be a full-time mother and house manager. That decision is paying off.

Enzo graduated with the highest honors in GT mechanical engineering. For that he was given the highest honor cord. He also got a golden stole (or sash) for his extra-curricular work at the Flowers Invention Studio of Georgia Tech, the largest student-run maker space or laboratory in the US.

GT studio

The studio is equipped with all kinds of tools, equipment and gadgets to enable students to create, well, inventions.

Up to his senior year, Enzo worked 20 hours a week in the studio for three years. For his senior design project, his team conceptualized and created the Battery Box (see page 12), a 1.5-foot by 1.5-foot device that sorts and packages used cylindrical and coin cell lithium and alkaline batteries for recycling.

The used batteries are waxed to prevent short circuits, sparking and ignition. Without the automation, ordinary battery recycling facilities are prone to accidental fires. Improperly recycled lithium-ion batteries cause more than 200 fires a year in recycling centers.

Recycling used batteries could be a multibillion-dollar business. About $54 billion worth of lithium batteries were sold in 2022 alone. Only 10% are recycled properly.  With Enzo’s Battery Box, a lithium battery can be sorted and safely packaged every 15 seconds.

You can imagine the high possibility of fires in recycling centers and households without the Battery Box invented by Enzo’s team.

One titillating invention in which Enzo was the lead control engineer is the Formula-style battery-powered four-wheel drive student racing car built inside the premises of GT after class.

He spent 15 hours a week for three years participating in the design of a new car every year.

In 2023, 200 students signed up to participate in the Formula racing car project.

The number of students who were serious enough in their commitment went down to 50 and further to 20 by the time the car was assembled.

Formula racing car

The Enzo team’s model EV car beat the toughest competitors, 69 of them, in the 2023 FSAE (Formula Society of Automotive Engineers or FSAE) competition for EV cars in North America, led by those from Canada and entries funded by BMW, Porsche and Mercedes Benz.

Enzo’s race car won the championship trophy in the Acceleration Event – 0 to 75 meters in 3.64 seconds, making it the quickest of the 69 entries.

The second place acceleration time, 3.82 seconds, was achieved by the French-Canadian team of Ecole de Technologie Superieure of Canada. Third place was University of Washington, 4.10 seconds.

The Enzo’s team car also won first prize in the 2023 Skidpad Event where the car is driven around a 15-meter radius circle as fast as possible.

GT finished second in autocross, fifth in design (very good) and 10th overall out of 69 teams.

At the Georgia Tech May 4 graduation, I noticed something disturbing, for my country: a third of graduates were from India, another 20% from China and the rest Americans and mixed races.

In Enzo’s mechanical engineering graduating class of 650, he was the only Filipino. The Philippines needs today 570,000 engineers.

With a population of 115 million, the Philippines should be producing 100,000 engineers each year. The actual output is only less than 50% of that.

You cannot achieve growth without engineers.

Demand for engineers

Says Yahoo Finance: “Owing to the constant need for problem-solving and innovation, engineers tend to have some of the most mentally stimulating jobs. The interdisciplinary nature of engineering demands a broad skill set, requiring them to integrate knowledge from various fields. Engineers are required to analyze, design and optimize systems, pushing their cognitive abilities. It is also often considered one of the most demanding jobs in the world.”

According to World Atlas, countries with the most number of engineering graduates annually are:

1) Russia 454,436; 2) US 237,826; 3) Iran 233,695; 4) Japan 169,214; 5) 147,858; 6) Indonesia 140,169; 7) Ukraine 130,391; 8) Mexico 113,944; 9) France 104,746 and 10) Vietnam 100,393.