The hundreds of middle school students who participated in The University of Texas-Pan American's Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week 2011's Robotics Day competition have Marianne Ruiz to thank for being able to fly their Parrot AR. Drone quadricopters earlier this fall.
If it wasn't for Ruiz - who will graduate Saturday, Dec. 17 from UTPA with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering - and a group of fellow electrical engineering students, the competition might not have happened.
Ruiz's brother, Joel, who was in charge of the weeklong conference's Robotics Day competition, needed a certain computer cable to download software to program quadricopters the students would use for the contest. The cable was not included in the shipment of the flying devices.
"Some of my friends and I built him the cable," Ruiz said. "We built it in 30 minutes. Without that cable he wouldn't have been able to download the software."
Ruiz's love for engineering and computers began in the sixth grade when she took a web design course at Zapata Middle School.
"I've wanted to be an engineer since I was 12 years old," Ruiz said.
After graduating from John B. Alexander High School in Laredo, Ruiz enrolled at UTPA. She transferred for a year to New York Institute of Technology, but returned to UT Pan American to be closer to her family and to take advantage of more services and opportunities UTPA provides its students.
With the help of UTPA's Career Services office, Ruiz landed an internship with Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Md. last summer and has been offered a job at its location in Cape Canaveral, Fla. She starts her new job in January.
Ruiz credits her training at UTPA with enabling her and her friends to build such a device from scratch and providing her the opportunity to work with Lockheed Martin.
"As far as the engineering program, they have a very unique perspective with the department in the way they teach because they focus a lot on design as opposed to other universities, which teach you the basics, and you don't really get much design experience," she said. "Here they tell you, 'Design it from scratch.' And to a lot of companies that's a huge asset because not many graduates from other universities come out knowing how to design."
The University will hold its Fall 2011 commencement ceremonies at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the McAllen Convention Center. This fall, 1,334 students are expected to receive their diplomas. At the 9 a.m. ceremony, 199 graduates from the College of Business Administration and 151 graduates from the College of Education will be awarded their degrees.
At the 1 p.m. ceremony, 244 graduates from the College of Arts and Humanities and 222 graduates from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences will receive their diplomas. At the 5 p.m. ceremony, 113 graduates from the College of Engineering and Computer Science, 300 graduates from the College of Health Sciences and Human Services and 105 graduates from the College of Science and Mathematics will receive their degrees.
The keynote speakers for the Fall 2011 Commencement ceremonies will be broadcast journalist Minerva Pérez for the 9 a.m. ceremony, former Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas for the 1 p.m. ceremony and Texas National Bank President Joe Quiroga for the 5 p.m. ceremony.
Pérez, who graduated from UTPA in 1981 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and Spanish, is an award-winning broadcast journalist and TV news anchor. Currently she is a co-host and partner of the "Latina Voices" cable TV show. Pérez is also the owner and president of Minerva Pérez Media LLC, a public relations/communications firm, according to biographical information on the Latina Voices website.
Salinas, who graduated from UTPA in 2002 with a Master of Public Administration degree, served as Hidalgo County judge from 2007-2009 and was appointed regional administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration's (GSA) Southwest Region Office in November 2009. Previously, Salinas served as Hidalgo County clerk, where he established satellite county clerk offices and the Public Report Card System, a transparency measure of the clerk's office. He was named County Clerk of the Year for the State of Texas, according to his biographical information on the GSA's website.
Quiroga, who graduated magna cum laude from UTPA in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in business administration, has built an extensive résumé in the decade or so since he left the University. As president of Texas National Bank, Quiroga oversees all facets of a two-branch $70 million bank. Previously, as vice president of Fiesta Food Stores, he headed the start up of a small chain of convenience stores. Quiroga also has managed multi-million dollar accounts as a personal financial services banker for JPMorgan Chase, according to his résumé.
For more information about the Fall 2011 Commencement ceremonies, visit the event's website.