Visionary: Ricky Aguiar and Carlos Gonzalez on building a better hotel room

July 18, 2017

 A collaboration between 21C Hotels and FirstBuild, the hotel room for the future challenge was developed to inspire innovation in lodging. That’s no small task to come up with an idea that’s both practical in application, affordable, and aesthetically appealing, but one that Ricky Aguiar and Carlos Gonzalez, current GE employees and graduate students set as their task.

While they did not win the competition, even placing was an accomplishment in a contest that pitted established businesses against evenly with students. Aguiar and Gonzalez focused on a technologically savvy hotel suite, which included a self-drying shower, voice activated accoutrements, heated floors, and a refrigerator designed to come stocked with your choice of beverage.

“I like doing projects, and there is no better person to do it with than Carlos. We started brainstorming from around the world. We started adding our own technology to it, like the heated floors, a self-drying shower, and voice activated everything. They wanted to raise ceilings and have atomic power. People had some crazy ideas,” says Aguiar.

That zeal for engineering started at a young age, and continues to serve as their inspiration to innovate.

“I was always interested in how things worked. I played with Legos and liked building stuff. Found out what engineering was and it was basically what I liked already. It was a clear choice,” says Gonzalez.

Aguiar adds, “When I was a kid, my cousin was into a lot of games that were only available in Japan. So, we had to open them up and mod them.”

Both Aguiar and Gonzalez have experience in the departments of Mechanical and Electrical and Computer Engineering, which informed their choices. So, they looked at near future gadgetry as their angle, devices that might not currently exist, but could easily be developed.

“We tried to stay as feasible possible. We tried to stay in that realm. Both of us have an electrical engineering background, so we understand how you can use it in your appliances,” says Aguiar.

The competition was stiff. Many of their rivals were established businesses with resources that far exceeded their own, including a full staff. But the duo was undeterred, using their limited options as encouragement to think outside the box.

 “They used technology that was already existing. We used technology that doesn’t exist right now, but it could in the next few years. We used stuff that we knew could work,” says Aguiar. “They added a lot more detail. We focused more on the technology. We didn’t spend a lot of time on the color of the bedspread. Now we know. We didn’t know a lot. We knew how to use CAD.”

Gonzalez adds, “I took a class at UofL. ME380, intro to Cad design. That class is really what taught me solid works. That’s how I was able to get the room laid out. The hard part was learning how to the rendering. That’s what I took away from it.”