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UTPA puts the fun in engineering during National Engineers Week
Contact: Amanda Perez, Intern (956) 665-2741
Posted: 03/02/2011
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UTPA senior Christopher Garza tests a bridge made by middle school students during the College of Engineering and Computer Science's Viva Engineering event Feb. 19.

The College of Engineering and Computer Science at The University of Texas-Pan American celebrated National Engineers Week Feb. 19-25, with weeklong events aimed at promoting careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields to Rio Grande Valley middle and high school students.

"The thrust behind National Engineers Week is to make the community aware of the value of engineering and what it does for the society," said Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. "We want students to understand that engineering takes hard work, but is not impossible. If you're willing to work hard, then you'll have the abilities to succeed in engineering."

The week kicked off with UTPA's Sixth Annual Viva Engineering Feb.19. The daylong event focused on introducing middle school students and teachers to UTPA's engineering program and related careers. It also included a tour of the engineering building, engineering presentations and poster displays, and design contests.

Students designed house models that could withstand hurricane force winds and remain standing when faced against a powerful fan, and constructed bridges out of popsicle sticks that were judged based on how much weight the bridge could hold.

Cynthia Chapa, an eighth grade student at South Middle School in Edinburg, said although challenging, her favorite part of the day was the bridge building activity. The bridge she constructed was able to resist all the weights that were placed on it. Chapa said she hopes to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at UTPA.

"The most difficult part of the bridge activity was getting started and putting it together. I had never done it before," Chapa said. "This is a good event; it gives everybody the chance to have fun and build stuff."

Christopher Garza, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering at UTPA and vice-regional chair student representative for the Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers, said the overall event was designed in a way that children could learn about engineering and have fun at the same time.

"We wanted the event to be about the fun of engineering, so that the students could get motivated and in the future consider engineering fields as a career," Garza said. "We had a really good outcome and the students were active and excited about the event and activities. It's important that we get them ready for a life with technology because it has a great impact all over the world."

UTPA graduate student Lizbeth B. Garza, pictured left, and UTPA senior Christopher Garza, inspect a paper house made by middle school students during the College of Engineering and Computer Science's Viva Engineering Event Feb. 19.

National Engineers Week activities continued Feb. 21 with a faculty appreciation luncheon, in which 10 student engineering organizations cooked and served lunch for the faculty of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. On Feb. 22 the University hosted a career fair, giving students the opportunity to speak with representatives from companies such as Toyota, Halliburton, Marathon Oil, Wal-Mart and Target.

The annual National Engineers Week awards banquet was held Feb. 23 with a presentation by Rodolfo A. Montero from The United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission on the "Overview of the 2010 Rio Grande Flooding." Eleven undergraduate and graduate students from the college were recognized that evening for their overall achievements in their programs, two of which received special recognition for establishing the Engineering Honor Society (EHS) at UTPA and setting it on track to become a chapter of Tau Beta Pi The National Engineering Honor Society. Six faculty members from the college were also recognized for their dedication to students and their education.

On Feb. 24 the Engineering Advisory Council held a meeting at UTPA with members ranging from Boeing and IBM to Motorola, United Launch Alliance, and Alps.

The college wrapped up its celebration with a field day and open house Feb. 25 for the its students, staff and faculty members to enjoy games and for local high school students to attend brief presentations on engineering and participate in engineering building tours.

"We want to show students that hard work can be fun and hopefully with this, they can feel more comfortable in making a choice about a career in engineering," Gonzalez said. "We feel we are doing our job because I've seen students who have been part of these events and are now engineering students (at UTPA)."

See more of National Engineers Week at UTPA at the University's photo gallery.

For more information about the COECS, call (956) 665-3510 or visit the college's website.