UTPA and TMAC open doors to manufacturing education
Contact: Amanda Perez, Intern 956-665-2741
Posted: 06/22/2010
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Robot racing, body scanning and company tours are just a few activities students participated in during the "Ideas to Reality: How Engineering Can Change Your Lives" camp, held at The University of Texas-Pan American June 14-16.

Pictured left to right are Edinburg High School juniors Arny Alvarado and Mark Solis constructing a Microbug during TMAC summer camp.

The camp was hosted by the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC) and Rapid Response Manufacturing Center, in collaboration with the College of Science and Engineering. This was the first camp of its type to offer high school students from the Career and Technology Education (CATE) program at Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, a weeklong experience that would enhance their manufacturing and engineering knowledge.

"This is our pilot project and we're very excited," said Henry Oh, director of The Manufacturing Assistance Center. "We have put this together with our experience with private industries and hopefully the kids will learn what the necessary skills are to pursue their ideal careers."

The approximately 20 students who participated in the camp had the opportunity to attend classes in product innovation-rapid prototyping, robotics, advanced lean manufacturing techniques and an entrepreneurship workshop. In addition, students received hands-on experience with robotics, manufacturing simulations and team building activities.

"For us at ECISD, it is our goal to get our students college ready and this camp gives them the college experience," said Griselda Quintanilla, CATE coordinator for ECISD. "This program increases their knowledge and reinforces their confidence, self-esteem and their choice to seek post secondary education."

This camp not only offered students a college experience, but also an opportunity to see first-hand the daily functions of a manufacturing company with tours to Temple Inland in Edinburg and Hi-Tech Plastics in Mission, where they were also able to speak to manufacturing professionals.

Eduardo Hinojosa, ECISD technology program welding teacher and one of eight teachers and counselors in attendance, said the camp did a great job at allowing students to engage in numerous activities that exposed them to engineering.

Pictured is Javier Palacios, a senior at Economedes High School, constructing a Microbug during TMAC summer camp.

"This program will give them a good sense of direction," Hinojosa said. "This will help students dedicate more of their time to classes because they have a more direct focus on their goals so that they can continue."

Hinojosa and Quintanilla are impressed with what the University offers and appreciate that their students were given the chance to experience its resources and opportunities and are now more aware of what UTPA has in store for them.

Edinburg North High School graduate, Lauren Guerra, was one of three girls participating in the camp. She said it was shocking to see that the majority of participants were males, but liked that the camp allowed them to come up with unique ideas, try new things and just be themselves.

"Coming to this camp has opened my mind to more possibilities," Guerra said. "This will give me the strength to pursue my interest in engineering and possibly change the way the world looks at things."

Guerra will be attending Texas A&M University-College Station in the fall to pursue a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering-Visualization.

"Ideas to Reality: How Engineering Can Change Your Lives" was designed with the collaborative efforts of TMAC, UTPA's College of Engineering, Rapid Response Manufacturing Center, North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative and ECISD to work toward a national initiative set forth by President Barack Obama in 2009 to ensure that our country remain a world leader in science and technology.

With an increase in demand for highly skilled manufacturing specialists and manufacturing and technology being a driving force of economic growth in Texas, TMAC is aware that it is crucial to expose the youth of the Rio Grande Valley to opportunities that will allow them to work toward education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that will prepare them for sophisticated manufacturing skills that require higher education and more training.

"We appreciate The University of Texas-Pan American opening their doors to ECISD. It reinforces the ties between the University and the community," Quintanilla said. "We look forward to continue working with UTPA and hopefully get students ready to commit to an engineering program."