The Marianas High School Aeronautical Dolphins is raring to defend its national title in the Real World Design Challenge, which it won last April amidst long odds.
Three members of the Aeronautical Dolphins, along with coach John Raulerson, were last Tuesday’s guests at the weekly Rotary Club of Saipan meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan and they said they are currently recruiting new members to join the team.
“The kickoff for the  Read World Design Challenge is Oct. 10 this Thursday. So what Marianas High School is doing is getting new students to join since me and Jess [Jessica Bigueras] are the only remaining members of the team [from] last year and Clariza [Magat] graduated high school already,” said Jill Arada.
Aside from Arada, Magat, and Bigueras, the 2013 RWDC national championship team was also made up of Stephanie Xiao, Cecilia Huixin Xu, and John Paul Aglubat.
Arada said the MHS Aeronautical Dolphins would be training new members so they can lead future generations of Marianas High School students to make their own mark in the Real World Design Challenge.
“We’re very, very lucky to have had this opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. and be around people who really did a good job in the competition like us,” said Bigueras.
To this day they still couldn’t believe the MHS Aeronautical Dolphins won the coveted national championship.
“They had all the teams gather in the auditorium of the National 4H Youth Center in Washington, D.C. and then they announced merit awards. There are 10 merit awards. If a team gets a merit award they can’t place in the Top 3 anymore. So all the merit awards were all gone and they were calling the Top 3 teams,” said Arada.
She said organizers announced the Top 3 winners in alphabetical order, which added to the confusion.
“So I was thinking they will call Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas first but they called New Hampshire and then Pennsylvania and then I thought they missed the letter ‘C’ and then they said ‘The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands,’” said Arada.
Even Raulerson, their indefatigable coach, couldn’t believe the team from MHS, an underdog if there ever was one, turned out to the top dog of the competition.
“I was basically telling J.P. [John Paul Aglubat] right here that ‘hey we’re not going to get anything this year. We won a merit award last year and we’re not going to get anything this year.’ So I’m getting ready for failure for us but they came out with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that made me so proud. To me that’s the No. 1 moment right there when the emcee said that the ‘Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ won the competition.”
Winning the national title was also an unforgettable experience for Magat and one she would cherish all her life.
“It came as a surprise to all of us because we thought we did horrible in front of everyone,” Magat said. “The feeling of people standing up and clapping for you and you have no idea who they are, it was just a great feeling.”
The win also was a life-changing event for Bigueras.
“According to Clarissa, I was the loudest when I screamed. It’s actually my first time to join RWDC last year and what actually made me join this whole thing is I’m interested in aviation but I wasn’t interested in becoming an engineer. But after doing the whole experience I’m actually considering it as one of my career choices,” said Bigueras.
Raulerson said the 2013 RWDC national championship was not only the first national championship in the Western Pacific including Guam, but was also a national championship in the fields of science, mathematics, engineering, and design.
“There’s a great group of kids here at Marianas High School. This is not easy to get. People just don’t understand. We got 50,000 people here. California has 58 million. We beat California and California is just one of the many giants that we beat. This trophy should be magnified a hundred times. We are the smallest entity there and the smallest to have ever won a national championship, the smallest. We’re the only U.S. territory that has won a national championship and these kids really have broken the barrier.”
According to its website, “the Real World Design Challenge is an annual competition that provides high school students, grades 9-12, the opportunity to work on real world engineering challenges in a team environment. Each year, student teams will be asked to address a challenge that confronts the nation’s leading industries. Students will use professional engineering software to develop their solutions and will also generate presentations that convincingly demonstrate the value of their solutions. The RWDC provides students with opportunities to apply the lessons of the classroom to the technical problems that are being faced in the workplace.”
For more information about the competition, visit www.realworlddesignchallenge.org.