(HUTTO, Texas) – Alan Bowles, of Austin, is working toward an associate degree in Precision Machining Technology at Texas State Technical College’s East Williamson County campus. He is scheduled to graduate in spring 2024.
Bowles served in the U.S. Army for nine years in Alaska, Kansas and Washington before leaving the service in December 2022. He said his family moved to Austin because his wife, Taylor, is from the area.
How did you decide to attend TSTC and choose your program of study?
I want to be a good gunsmith, and I read that in order to be a good one, you need to be a good machinist also. So I looked for machining schools, and TSTC was the top choice for that. I did not have any machining experience before coming to TSTC. The instructors are nice, and I enjoy coming here.
When did you become interested in firearms?
I got a BB gun from my parents when I was a kid. I was running around shooting cans. I enjoy firearms; I think it is art, especially the older firearms. It’s art that functions.
How was your adjustment from military life to attending TSTC?
There are a ton of schools you have to go to while in the Army. I am using Chapter 31 (Veteran Readiness and Employment) benefits to attend TSTC. I am more of a hands-on learner than a book learner. With the steps for learning, it is kind of a walk-and-run situation when you start off slow, but it is not fast-paced compared to other colleges I have been to. The hardest thing is managing having a family and homework.
What have you been learning in your program?
I have learned so much about computer coding and computer numerical controlled machines. I never thought I would be able to do that and am knocking it out pretty easily. I don’t really care for computers, so programming is what is challenging for me. I enjoy the manual mill and manual lathe a lot. That comes simple to me.
What are your plans after graduation?
There is a gunsmithing school in Colorado that I want to go to. My family would stay here while I go up there. After that, I would like to work for someone who understands the lay of the land and then make a name for myself. I would eventually like to venture out on my own.
What kind of advice would you give to prospective nontraditional students?
I always tell them that they are on the right path. The people that are working in machining shops are getting old and retiring. There are not enough replacements for them. The student can pick and choose where they work.
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology and certificates of completion in Machining and Precision Machining Technology at the East Williamson County, Fort Bend County, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas, and Waco campuses.
Registration continues for the fall semester at TSTC. For more information, go to tstc.edu.