Driven by passion and determination

July 26, 2018

Building a vehicle is not as easy as assembling a DIY (do-it-yourself) car kits available to small children. An automobile has many parts which are connected to each other.  Obviously, it takes knowledge and skills to design, produce and test a functional vehicle.


Now, a group of Ateneo students are pushing the boundaries by building a car that can run on electric battery. Rynyl Ilagan (5 BS Computer Engineering), Gab Aquino (5 BS Electronics Communication Engineering) and Onur Salih (5 BS Electronics Communication Engineering) are part of AtenEco, the Shell Eco-marathon team of Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of Electronics, Computer and Communications Engineering (ECCE).


Shell Eco-marathon is an international race where students have to design and build their own cars.  These cars will then undergo a Mileage Challenge to see how far they can travel with the least amount of fuel.  Regional Shell Eco-marathon competitions take place in different locations globally: Asia, Americas and Europe. The regional winners will compete in the Drivers’ World Championship in London followed by a Grand Final to determine the world’s most efficient driver.

Members of AtenEco are now preparing for the 2019 competition.

Ilagan, Aquino and Salih have been part of the Ateneo contingent since the university started joining the race in 2017. They are now preparing for the 2019 competition.

“This is our third year to join so we’re somewhat veterans in the field,” says Salih. There were only 10 students who were part of the original team. “It was mostly students who were interested in cars and making electric vehicles,” he adds. As the team grew in size, they decided to put an order in the system, from recruitment to distribution of work. In his first year, Salih acted as Deputy Team Leader and for the next race, he will be part of the electronic team. This unit is responsible for the design and development of the car’s electronic control (considered the brain of the car) and all electronic component such as lights, dashboard, safety and telemetry.


Although the competition will not take place until the first quarter of 2019, the team has already begun preparatory work.


“In our first year, we started really late—we only had 4 months to finish the car,” Salih says.  Since it was the group’s first time to join the competition, they were inexperienced on the nitty-gritty of car building.


“In our first year, our car was has the heaviest (in the race). We noticed that the other teams had lighter vehicles. The rule of thumb is the lighter the vehicle, the more efficient it becomes,” he says. Having been to 2 races, they have made various adjustments.


Ilagan, who serves as the Team Manager, concurs.


“We’re more prepared now; we have a better context on how the race goes. In our first year, our goal was simply to get experience.  Our second year was meant to apply what we learned the first time around. We wanted to qualify.”


Vehicles have to complete 9 laps in 25 minutes. In the 2018 race, Ateneo’s entry vehicle took 27 minutes to finish.


“This year, our goal is to qualify and be in a better position in terms of efficiency. In our 2 years of experience, we already know where we can improve on and what we can retain for the next race. We’re more equipped for the competition,” Ilagan says. Part of the preparations include researching the mechanical engineering component of building a car.

The team with their advisers, Dr. Rosula Reyes (Chair, ECCE Department) and Mr. Carlos Oppus.


“We do not have a course in Mechanical Engineering in Ateneo. We are all BS Electronics Communication Engineering and BS Computer Engineering majors,” Salih says. The technique, he adds, is to converse with other teams, pick up valuable tips and apply the learnings. They also do internet research.


“It’s like taking up an additional course on top of our own courses,” Ilagan notes.


Shouldering an additional academic load may be a drawback, but not for these Ateneans.  


“I think that this is a good experience. Faced with challenges, I know that I am not doing it alone—I have people around me,” Ilagan says. “We also make sure that we find ways to relax. Even in our work environment, the mood is light so it will not be stressful.”


It may be a competition but the lessons they learned are invaluable. Salih cites time management as an example.


For Aquino, the experience has taught him that “anything is possible as long as you work hard for it and you are determined and passionate.”


Their adviser, Mr. Carlos Oppus, agrees.

“The learning experience is something greater than what they learned in the classroom. It also affords visibility for the department. Even though we are an ECCE department, we can join competitions like this that are solely student-led.  At the same time, there are a lot of lessons for the faculty. The students learn by doing the things they love.”


The race is on. For those who want to fuel the team’s 2019 Shell Eco-marathon Asia bid, contact them at