Breaking Emotional Barriers at E-Fest South America

As I walked under the ASME E-Fest South America banner and into the main space of this event, there was a buzzing energy, and yet an immediate comfort. From that moment, I knew that this ASME E-Fest was going to be different.

ASME E-Fest South America 2018 was the first E-Fest to be held in South America, since the launch of the ASME E-Fests program in 2017. The Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), joined Delhi Technological University (DTU), California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and Pennsylvania State University in the 2018-2019 cycle.

Students from all over Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, and Venezuela joined UFRJ participants in what was one of the most emotional E-Fests to date. Although made up of a very broad group, the atmosphere was inviting. You were not a visitor, or a stranger, but rather another family member. There were no cultural boundaries or divisions. Hugs and traditional greeting kisses were given at every introduction and behind every smile were stories; stories of hardship and perseverance.

From the Venezuelan team, which bravely endured an arduous journey including days of bus rides and carrying their human-powered vehicle on their backs, to the UFRJ teams that had been putting finishing touches on their first vehicle at 3 am because they’d been setting up the night before. There were even students who had to take multiple buses or walk for miles to make it to E-Fest.

However, none of that mattered, as for this one weekend they put behind the political climate at home, their economic situations, and distance traveled to unite in celebrating something much bigger—their love of engineering. At this E-Fest, like all other ASME E-Fests, there was laughing, dancing, competing, compelling presentations, tears, and new friendships built. But the biggest highlight of the weekend was the demonstration of strength of the South American engineering community.

This assembly of nearly 600 bright minds and doers would not have been possible without the lead student organizers from UFRJ. For months, they had been working arduously with ASME staff and community partners to bring ASME E-Fest to South America. Hosting an E-Fest can be a lot of work, but bringing the first E-Fest to a new continent takes it to a new level. From securing sponsors and speakers to doing television and radio interviews to promote the event, these students dedicated hundreds of hours to make this event possible.

It is my honor to introduce the final five additions to the 2018-2019 ASME E-Fests Student Leadership Program from UFRJ: Fernando Garcia, Faenna Karolidis, Lucas Pigliasco, Mariana Tavares, and Brenno Vieira.

Valentina Alayon is ASME’s Coordinator, Student & Early Career Engagement & Experience.