What is your typical workday like, task-wise? The whole day I am at the computer designing the architecture of products, manipulating graphs, and programming control algorithms. I always wanted to be an inventor since I was a child, and I realize now that means it is necessary to be a little bit crazy. If I work on one thing for too long I get bored. I enjoy experiencing different things and I’m happy I get to do that with the variety of projects I work on.
Did you ever consider doing something else with your life besides engineering? In the past few years, I’ve become interested in artistic works. Someday I would like to study industrial design and combine it with my knowledge of engineering to produce functional products that look more like a work of art.
What attracted you to an engineering career? I was initially fascinated with robots because I liked to control mechanical structures and observe how they accomplish a specified task. I design robots as a hobby.
Name: Jose Luis Rojas Calderon
What kinds of projects do you work on? We are currently working on lighting controllers. Some projects are more in the experimental phase and others are ready to launch commercially. In the case of the digital sun distiller (the product that took top place in the design challenge) we believe we can have a finished product ready for sale in a little more than one year depending on test results. The only thing that could delay it is the funding needed to market the product as it is not easy to gain access to investment resources in Latin America.
What environmental benefits does your digital sun distiller have? As our population grows and water use per person rises, the demand for fresh water continues to soar. Efficient water management requires new knowledge and actionable solutions. With the digital sun distiller, a person is able to purify and reuse household water. Multiply this by many households and we reduce water consumption in a substantial way.
What do you feel are the traits and habits that allow you to excel in engineering? I believe you need to be passionate about what you do to stand out, and it’s important to strive for what your passion is. If you do what you like, you will never have to work.
If a young person approached you for career advice about pursuing engineering, what would you tell them? I would suggest trying everything you’re passionate about. Whatever you aspire to, do it well because you will be most happy with your career and yourself if you do something you enjoy.
Jose Luis Rojas Calderon picked up $10,000 for his idea in a recent design challenge sponsored by Freescale Semiconductor. The winning design is a digital sun distiller, essentially a glass-topped box that gathers condensed water vapor created by the sun’s heat. Instead of gathering the reusable water in jars or bottles, the distiller intelligently distributes water where and when it is needed in a given household. Using Freescale’s microcontrollers, Zigbee transceivers, and pressure sensors, the distiller can estimate potable water production on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.