Students have fun while learning during Engineering Week at UTPA
Posted: 02/27/2013
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Vivian Reyna, an eighth grader from Juan De Dios Salinas Middle School, has always been interested in the field of engineering and looks forward to studying this field when she attends college.

Students work on projects during The University of Texas-Pan American's Engineering Week. More than 700 students from elementary, middle and high schools throughout the Rio Grande Valley participated in this year's three-day event held from Feb. 21-23 to learn more about engineering.

Reyna was one of more than 700 students from several elementary, middle and high schools participating at this year's Engineering Week Feb. 21-23, held at The University of Texas-Pan American.

"I have learned a lot about how things are made, put together and how they work, which is real interesting," said Reyna. "Engineering Week gives me the opportunity to participate in many different activities and have fun as well."

Students participating at the three-day event in the Engineering Building took part in demonstrations such as the power electricity bicycle, concrete smasher, and launching plastic soda bottle air-water pressure rockets. Other hands-on activities included building Lego pinwheels and airplanes and mini solar kits.

"We invited children of all ages to play with these items, to test them for themselves so they may get hands-on experiences and learn about the different aspects of engineering," said Christopher Garza, mechanical engineering major, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Region Five Pre-College Director and president of UTPA Engineering Student Advisory Council. "Once the students participated, it then became 'Engineering Wonderland'."

UTPA students from mechanical, manufacturing, civil, electrical, and computer engineering, as well as science, all participated in some capacity in this event and each department came up with a different display to represent their background of study.

"The purpose of this event is to encourage and motivate youth to pursue careers in engineering," said Jose E. Gutierrez, graduate assistant at the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Aside from the teaching and demonstration aspects of the event, Garza and his colleagues wanted Engineering Week to be fun as well.

"We want students to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but we also want them to see the fun side of engineering," Garza said. "We host similar events throughout the year and I hope we can make a positive impact on these students through this three day event."

Prior to the mid-week activities, a banquet ceremony was held for engineering students and faculty on Feb. 21 at the Engineering Building lobby. Awards were given out to faculty and student members of the year.

Viva Engineering, an engineering and design competition for middle school students, kicked off Engineering Week on Feb. 16. More than 250 students from schools across the Rio Grande Valley and the Laredo area attended the event.

"Students worked in groups where they built and tested various items they created," Garza said. "We provided all materials, lunch and breakfast, our volunteers and teaching staff and we also awarded prizes to the winners."

Garza's hope for the students who participated is that they think about and consider studying in the engineering field when they attend college.

"I hope that when these students go back home, they speak to their parents about their experiences here at Engineering Week," Garza said. "An important thing is for these students to come to UTPA and get that feeling that they should do something with themselves, their studies and their success, for their futures and a possible career in engineering."

See more of Engineering Week in this photo gallery.