The Hispanic Engineering Science and Technology (HESTEC) program held annually at The University of Texas-Pan American inspired McAllen native, Juan Antonio Valdez Guzman, to pursue a career in engineering. Now he is back at HESTEC, not as a student, but as a presenter hoping to make a difference in student's lives, the way presenters made a difference in his six years ago.
Guzman, 20, is attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is a cast member of PBS' TV show Design Squad: Season 3. Design Squad is a high-energy reality competion show aimed at kids and parents to promote engineering.
"Design Squad is one of the few places on TV where kids can learn about engineering," said Marisa Wolsky, Design Squad executive producer. "We wanted to up the ante for season three, so we chose contestants, such as Juan, who are entrenched in some of the country's best college engineering programs."
On Saturday Oct. 3, the show where contestants are challenged to create designs such as indestructible, remote-controlled, flying football targets for Nerf toymaker Hasbro, will join HESTEC in promoting careers in engineering to South Texas students. Guzman, as a Design Squad contestant, will share his experiences from being a local Valley boy to becoming an MIT engineering student.
"Just because we're Hispanic kids from South Texas does not mean we can't achieve great things," Guzman said. "I am just a regular kid from McAllen who is looking forward to telling Valley students, if I can do it you can do it too."
Guzman graduated from the Science Academy of South Texas in 2007. Before graduating, however, Guzman was unsure about his future career. He knew he liked math and science but didn't want to become a mathematician. It wasn't until attending HESTEC that he knew his future was in engineering.
"HESTEC is a good first step in the door for engineering," Guzman said. "HESTEC engineering presenters sharing their experiences and the hands-on activities make engineering and HESTEC fun and exciting, which is what inspired me in the first place. So now when people ask me what inspired engineering, I say the Science Academy and HESTEC."
HESTEC was created in 2002 and is a weeklong event designed to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers among South Texas students. Its goal is to emphasize the importance of science literacy and to encourage students to consider STEM careers. Guzman is an example of what HESTEC is designed to do.
"Juan is a prime example of the success we aspire for South Texas students by attending HESTEC," said Jessica Salinas, director for university events. "HESTEC is an outreach event to inspire students and to continue making an impact and causing a ripple effect of success."
Of course Guzman's success didn't come solely from inspiration. It has taken hard work and determination. Guzman looks for opportunities that will help him succeed in his field. In fact, that is how he became a cast member of Design Squad and now a presenter at HESTEC.
"I was looking for an internship to gain more experience, so going through 300 pages of possibilities I landed on Design Squad, which sounded fun," Guzman said. "I thought it was a behind the scenes job, but to my surprise I landed a role on the show and now I get to spread an important message to students back in my hometown."
Guzman said the message he hopes to spread at HESTEC is "Everything is possible." He believes that Design Squad and HESTEC share a similar goal and that is to inspire students to pursue engineering and he hopes to do that Saturday.
"I want South Texas students to understand that if you have a passion and you set your mind to it, then you can be successful," Guzman said. "If you want to be a great engineer, then become a great engineer, no matter what, every student in the Valley can make it to the top."
To see Guzman in action, visit Design Squad Saturday Oct. 3 at UTPA's HESTEC Community Day and watch the show's national premiere on PBS Oct. 7.
For more information on Design Squad, visit www.pbskids.org/designsquad.
For more information on HESTEC, visit hestec.utpa.edu.