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SC&L students excel at Breakbulk poster competition
Alex Keimig
Al Henson, Heidar Malki and Margaret Kidd, at the Breakbulk Student Poster Competition.
Al Henson, Heidar Malki and Margaret Kidd, at the Breakbulk Student Poster Competition.

Three student teams from the University of Houston recently took first, second, and third place at the inaugural Breakbulk Student Poster Competition at Breakbulk Americas in Houston, Texas – a successful sweep for the Technology Division's Supply Chain & Logistics students.

Breakbulk Americas is a yearly breakbulk cargo and project shipping conference held each fall in Houston. This conference is a key opportunity for industry professionals and students alike to find facetime with potential business partners, to bolster existing relationships and build new ones, and – as of this year – to compete for thousands of dollars in new scholarship awards at the Breakbulk Student Poster Competition.

Chaired by the Technology Division's Supply Chain & Logistics Technology Program Director Margaret Kidd and sponsored by Bechtel, 4D Supply Chain Consulting, UTC Overseas, DP World and the University of Houston, the event gave participating students the opportunity to present their research on the Breakbulk Main Stage at the George R. Brown Convention Center in September.

Due to the timing of the fall semester and the start of classes, most participating student teams had little more than a month to take their projects from early conception to presentation and judging at this first inaugural competition.

"What this showed us is that we challenged our students, and they were up to the challenge," Kidd said.

In total, 31 projects were submitted for consideration by teams from both the University of Houston and Texas A&M University at Galveston, and nine teams – first, second, and third place winners, plus six honorable mentions – were recognized onstage alongside their academic advisors and presented with several thousand dollars in total awards.

"It was very exciting to see the high level of engagement from the students. The fervor in wanting to learn from industry veterans and leaders was palpable," said Thomas D. Skellingsted, President, 4D Supply Chain Consulting.

The general focus of the competition was the digitization and continuing sustainability of maritime operations; topics ranged from the state of automation in container ports and risk assessment of cyberthreats to maritime infrastructure to implementing smart port technology and assessing the future of the Kra Canal.

"The Breakbulk poster contest challenges students with industry-intense requirements of thorough research with clear, concise presentation and the opportunity to engage with logistics leaders," said Marco Poisler COO, Global Capital Projects & Energy, UTC Overseas, calling the competition "a great way to build the future."

Steve Spoljaric, Bechtel Corporate Manager of Global Logistics, echoed the importance of affording students and young professionals opportunities to bolster their portfolios.

“Within the engineering, procurement and construction industry, many of our engineering colleagues write technical papers and perform research that creates a pathway to excel in their discipline starting in college. The transportation industry benefits significantly with programs such as this competition so that equivalent fellowships can be recognized for the technical aspects of our profession. It also further challenges status quo with continuous improvement through new ideas, technology and innovation," Spoljaric said.

"Our team learned that ports of today have potential to evolve and overcome congestion," said SCLT senior John Nguyen on behalf of his first-place winning team. "With digitalization, communication and processes between each stakeholder can become more efficient. And with our research just barely scratching the surface, ports have the ability to easily transition into smart ports after implementing today’s technology."

The opportunities to network seemed to be just as valuable as the awards themselves, which was a sentiment echoed by fellow SCLT student William Day on behalf of the team he competed with.

"Participating in the Breakbulk poster competition was an amazing opportunity because it challenged my team to identify and narrow in on our focus topic, which was global water scarcity, and then collaboratively produce a poster analyzing an applicable solution to this problem. We won third place overall and were able to network with others in the Breakbulk industry, so it was extraordinary to be distinguished and grow ourselves professionally in the process," Day said.

As a collaborative effort between the University of Houston, Breakbulk Americas and industry sponsors, the nascent competition achieved its goal of bringing together students and professionals to benefit the local and global breakbulk and logistics sectors by allowing both parties a glimpse into their shared futures.

"DP World has always supported communities, including educational opportunities, where we operate. We hope to support growing the poster competition at future Breakbulk events and providing more scholarship funding opportunities for students for in-demand degrees. We see these students as part of the next generation of leadership for the logistics industry. We hope they consider our world-class company as an option when they graduate," said Nick Geale, Vice President, DP World.

The success of the Technology Division's winning teams was the proverbial feather in the University's cap.

"I'm so proud of all of the students that participated along with the support from my colleague Dr. Al Henson," said Kidd. "They made a major investment of their time and effort, and you can really see the teamwork that went into each of these projects concerning key development goals for the industry. This is such a unique platform where industry and academia come together. We've got to take advantage of that to keep supporting students, building relationships, and growing the industry."

Award Winners

The winning team.

First Place: Implementing Smart Port Technology
Advisor: Al Henson
Student team: Daniel Mendez, Zain Hussnain, John Nguyen, Alex Kasymkanov, Jamal Olasode, and Taylor Fusco

Second place.

Second Place: The Kra Canal: Pros, Cons & Future Opportunities
Advisor: Al Henson
Student team: Adrian Rodriguez, Tyriana Terrell, Vuong Hong, Ndeye Sofia Marre, Bryan Martinez, and Ivan Leon

Third place.

Third Place: Quenching Global Thirst: The Power of the Sun
Advisor: Margaret Kidd
Student team: Lindsey Guerrero, William Day, Gavin Chang, Herson Medrano, and Abigail Lopez

Honorable Mentions

Energizing Solutions: Tackling Oil Price Challenges
Advisor: Margaret Kidd
Student team: Anthony Reyes, Christian Sallese, David Zacher, Raja Singh, and Sergio Morales

Port AI: Smart Solutions for Modern Maritime Infrastructure
Advisor: Margaret Kidd
Student team: Sebastian Nguyen, Herb Lopez, Westley Adame, Anissa Warren, and Ali Khowaja

The State of Automation in Container Ports
Advisor: Margaret Kidd
Student team: Alie Haruna, David Rodriguez, Ali Syed, and Kevin Tran

Port Infrastructure: Risk Assessment of Maritime Cyber Attack – A Probabilistic Model
Advisor: TAMUG
Student Team: Jessica Perez and Juanita Monteiro

Impact of Digital Twinning on Global Capital Projects & Port Infrastructure
Advisor: Margaret Kidd and Al Henson
Student team: Ashley Velasquez, Kevin Velasquez, Zaki Hamel, and Bethel Mbakaogu

The Sustainability & Energy Efficiency of Offshore Windmill Turbines
Advisor: Al Henson
Student team: Vanessa Davis, Karina De La Rosa, Ronaldo Quiroz, Sardar Islam, and Munif Monim

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