Student’s team takes first in MAES Leadership Conference competition

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
June 3, 2008

Nick Mustachio, a chemistry/applied mathematics double major from Friendswood, placed first along with his team in the Team Project Competition at the 19th Annual Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists Leadership Conference in Fort Worth.

Mustachio is a participant in the Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholars Program at Texas State, a National Science Foundation funded scholarship program.

The MAES competition was designed to test creativity, professionalism, communication and teamwork as students convince a panel of judges to select their program as a model for distribution and implementation across the organization. The competition featured teams comprised of four-to-five students working together under the mentorship of recruiters and professionals to develop a written business proposal and PowerPoint presentation for real world problems faced by engineering and science companies. Each team was given a particular problem.

“It was interesting because throughout the conference, there were workshops, lunches, dinners and even a tour of the General Motors factory that we had to attend so most of the work on the project was done on our own time--which meant we were busy the entire weekend,” Mustachio said. “When our group made it to the finals, we had to present our proposal along with two other teams in front of about 80 people. That’s something I had never done before.”

The contest challenge presented to the team consisted of a design conflict between two corporate engineers, which threatened the company’s ability to meet its deadline commitment. As a “consulting firm,” the MAES competitors proposed possible solutions to the company CEO. Final judges included the national president of MAES along with representatives from ExxonMobil and Lockheed Martin.

“Our solutions were to have the project manager take several communications classes to develop skills needed to communicate more effective leadership to each engineer,” Mustachio said. “We also proposed to have the entire engineering team participate in conflict resolution and ethical business classes, have the entire team participate in a team building ropes course, and have both senior engineers participate in supportive design reviews so that they could give each other positive feedback while not slowing the project completion down.

“Along with all of this, we had to create a timeline, a proposed budget and a procedure to measure success which included surveys, process sessions, and bi-weekly progress meetings until the project is completed,” he said. “The question and answer portion included what contingency plans we would have if the classes were postponed and questions about our budget.”       

The MAES Leadership Conference is designed to help develop leadership skills for undergraduate students who are planning careers in the sciences and engineering. For additional information on MAES, visit

For additional information on the Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholars Program (H-LSAMP) at Texas State, visit