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TSTC Showcase Challenger Learning Center to Students

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By Eladio Jaimez

ULAMatthew Pelache and Julie Ann Garza were ok with missing school on Thursday. But it didn't keep them from learning something.

Pelache and Garza took part in the Young Minds At Work Program at United Launch Alliance (ULA), which allowed parents to take their children to work for the day.

But instead of going to their parents' actual place of work, the group of approximately 50 students met at the Challenger Learning Center at Texas State Technical College.

ULA, a longtime partner with TSTC, Director Ernest Roybal greeted the students ranging in age from 5-18 years old and set down some ground rules immediately.

"We're going to learn something and we're going to have fun," Roybal said. "This gives the students an opportunity through this Challenger Learning Center to learn about what their parents do at ULA. It gives them a little more exposure to the aerospace and the building and launching of rockets."

Roybal said that in previous years, the students have visited the ULA facilities located near the TSTC campus. But with the opening of the Challenger Learning Center in January, utilizing the STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) Lab was an obvious choice.

And if Pelache and Garza's reaction was any indicator, it was a roaring success.

"This was very cool," said Pelache, an eighth-grader at Memorial Middle School in Harlingen. "Not only did we learn about science and space, we also had a lot of fun."

The students were divided into groups. Some worked from the space station while others remained in mission control. The groups switched out after about half an hour in order to give everyone an opportunity to enjoy the full experience.

"You know, I'd never really thought about it but this is definitely an option for me now," Garza said about pursuing a STEM career.

Garza is also an eighth-grader at Memorial Middle School and left very impressed with the Challenger Learning Center.

"Everyone was so helpful and you actually got to learn something while you were here," Garza said.

Liz Atkinson works for ULA as a buyer and was also impressed with the experience her daughters enjoyed at the Challenger Learning Center.

It gives them something to look forward to," Atkinson said. "They got a firsthand look here at what we do at ULA."

Director of Special Projects Adan Trevino said the Challenger Learning Center has been busy all semester and hopes to see more partners take groups of students similar to ULA in the future.

"We hope to continue building bridges with our partners and create more opportunities for our kids in the Valley," Trevino said.

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