With Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education a focus in K-12 and institutions of higher education, Texas State Technical College Mechatronics Technology students are stepping up and doing their part to encourage middle schooler’s interest in STEM-related fields.

Recently, Mechatronics Technology Club officers and students volunteered with the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District STEM2 Preparatory Academy as judges and mentors for the school’s “First Tech Challenge” competition.

“It’s great that these students have already taken an active approach in STEM education,” said TSTC Mechatronics Technology student and club president Flavio Tello. “And it’s our duty as college students pursuing a STEM career to encourage and motivate them.”

A number of middle school students from across the Rio Grande Valley gathered at STEM2 Preparatory Academy for the competition. The contest consisted of robotic matches with robots the students built and programmed themselves.

“We know all too well the pressure a competition like this can bring,” said Tello. “So we are glad that we were able to give these students advice and share our own experiences.”

The Mechatronics Technology students, who have competed in competitions such as SkillsUSA in the past, made recommendations and suggestions to the students on how to improve their robots’ programming and competition times.

“It’s great being a part of this. I wish this is something I had when I was in school,” said Tello. “Times are changing and training is improving, which is why I hope these students take advantage of everything offered to them, and I hope that what we share with them encourages successful careers.”

STEM2 Preparatory Academy Counselor Brenda Duarte said she was pleased with the learning experience TSTC’s mechatronics students provided for her students.

“This visit went very well. We’re so appreciative that these TSTC students took the time to come out and help,” said Duarte. “The exchange of ideas and knowledge between everyone was great.”

Duarte added that there was a lot of discussion about higher education, robotic design, advances in technology, programming and coding.

She said she hopes the partnership between her campus and TSTC’s mechatronics program continues to grow because these students have had a large impact on her student’s interest in STEM education.

Tello and many of his peers will be graduating this semester, but said they are working diligently at getting other club members up to speed about the partnership so STEM2 Preparatory Academy students can continue to get mentored.

“STEM is here and is the future,” said Tello. “We need to work to keep these young students interested in STEM and it starts by letting them know they’re not alone.”

Since the competition, Tello and his classmates have returned to speak to classes at the STEM academy and to share their SkillsUSA robotic prototype.

For more information on Mechatronics Technology, visit tstc.edu.  

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