STEM career opportunities focus of HESTEC breakout sessions for daughters, mothers
By Office of University Relations
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Posted: 09/30/2010
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Daughters and their mothers and grandmothers got a taste of the teamwork and out-of-the-box thinking required of engineers when they took on building a "puff mobile" during a day devoted to promoting science, math and technology careers to South Texas women at Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) week.

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Anahi Garza (left), a Brownsville Rivera HIgh School senior, and her mother Esperanza are pictured racing the paper sailboat they constructed at a Raytheon breakout session held during Latina Day at HESTEC.

The construction of the puff mobile, a paper sailboat, was sponsored by Raytheon Corporation and one of the many breakout sessions offered during Latina Day Sept. 29. Other hands-on activities and sessions highlighting successful women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields were offered by Wal-Mart, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, U.S. Navy, and IBM.

"When I went through high school I wish I had something like this to inspire me," said Justa Trevino, a system engineer at Raytheon and Rio Grande Valley native who helped lead the session. "I think this is a way to inspire our children today and it's great that there are also moms present. Having their parents involved in their career interests is key to the girls' success."

The session, titled "Let's Build a Puff Mobile and Blow It Away," was also guided by two other Valley natives, Flor Rodriguez, quality engineer, and Felicia Castillo, operations engineer. Two of the three presenters graduated from UTPA with engineering degrees.

The mother-daughter teams were asked to work together to build the sail boat out of three plastic straws, two paper clips, four lifesavers, one piece of paper and tape. Once construction of the boats was completed there was a race to test which team built the best moving boat. Boats could only be moved by the blows of air coming from mothers and daughters.

Jennifer Loredo, a senior at Edcouch-Elsa High School, said the sessions and entire day of events, which also included inspiring keynote presentations from speakers such as Monica Saenz, a senior engineer at ExxonMobil and State Representative Veronica Gonzales, provided a great learning experience.

"This is a great opportunity for us as students to learn more about engineering," Loredo said. "We've heard from people who have told us about the different parts of engineering and what kind of school is needed. And it's also great being here with my mom, so she learns more about college and careers and so do I."

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Ailen Perez (left), a senior at PSJA High School, and her mom Rosalinda Perez learned about gravity during a breakout session sponsored by ExxonMobil.
Loredo's mom, Nora Loredo, said what she learned during the day made her want to motivate and encourage her daughter even more. She said this was the first time she's been to an event like Latina Day and is glad to have participated with her daughter. She hopes to continue supporting her daughter as she aims toward her career goal.

IBM's Latina Day breakout session offered a question and answer panel discussion led by IBM employees, Julissa Villarreal, Marisa Garza and Sandra Ellett-Salmoran. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions regarding careers at IBM and the education it takes to get there.

"Don't be afraid of or intimidated by math or science, just try your best, have a dream and it'll pay off in the end," said Sandra Ellett-Salmoran, program director for IBM, who described the opportunities for females in STEM careers.

Brittney Garcia, a senior at Zapata High School, her mother Paty Garcia and grandmother Alicia Villarreal took part in IBM's discussion. Brittney said she wants UTPA to continue holding programs like Latina Day and HESTEC.

"It's a learning opportunity for all of us and an encouragement for us to go to college," Brittney said. "And IBM really showed us and stressed the importance of learning math and science because the industry is in need of more Latina engineers. So this opens our eyes."

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UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen (center) welcomed UTPA alumna Alicia Torres, healthcare executive and founder of Rosebud Solutions LLC, and Tom Torkelson, chief executive officer and co-founder of IDEA Public Schools in Weslaco, to HESTEC. Torres and Torkelson spoke to students at the College of Business Administration's Symposium on entrepreneurship held Sept. 29 during Latina Day at HESTEC.
She said the day's experiences has helped her realize that she needs to take her education seriously, especially as a Latina, because there are a lot of opportunities.

Salmoran said HESTEC and programs like Latina Day are an important and significant contribution to the community because they encourage, represent and motivate students, parents and teachers.

"I hope all these girls will consider STEM careers, their opportunities are incredible out there. We're trying to give these girls a glimpse of what is possible if they choose one of these careers," Salmoran said.

Also held as part of the day's HESTEC events were two symposiums, one conducted by the College of Business Administration (CoBA) and another by the College of Arts and Humanities (COAH).

During the CoBA symposium, a panel of business professionals from across the nation gave students a perspective and educational insight to business professions. Speakers on the panel included Dr. Teo Ozuna, UTPA CoBA dean; UTPA alumna Alicia Torres, healthcare executive and founder of Rosebud Solutions LLC; and Tom Torkelson, chief executive officer and co-founder of IDEA Public Schools in Weslaco.

COAH invited Rodrigo Rodriguez, film and commercial professional from Rio Bravo Pictures, better known for their Lone Star Bank commercials, to speak to students about the need for professionals in the media industry, what it means to work in the business and how UTPA can prepare them for a career in media. The symposium also included a Broadcast Advertisement Competition. Student participants were given two days to film, edit and compile a 30-second commercial promoting the College of Arts and Humanities. Out of the six teams who entered the competition only one team of three could win the first place prize of an iPad.

For more information on HESTEC and events for the remainder of the week go to