(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Some 50 students from Texas State Technical College’s Mechatronics Technology, Precision Machining Technology and Welding Technology programs at the Harlingen campus experienced a tour of aerospace manufacturer SpaceX’s launch facility in Brownsville Wednesday, March 16.
They were greeted with a spectacular view from outside the facility of a Stargate base and three silver rockets.
The tour guides showed the students how toolmakers, engineers and welders contribute to building a sustainable rocket through creative approaches.
Grayson Gray, a TSTC Mechatronics Technology student from South Padre Island, said his tour experience was very unique.
“The entire facility is visually striking,” he said. “Our tour guide showed us his area, which was the nose cone production facility. It was interesting to learn how their production is more hands-on rather than automated. This was by far the best tour I have been on.”
The fourth-semester student first gained insight into the foundation for electrical theory at his former high school, the Science Academy. He chose TSTC because of its proximity to his home and TSTC’s Mechatronics Technology program because of its expansive career opportunities. He is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Mechatronics Technology.
Alfredo Aldape, of Brownsville, a TSTC Precision Machining Technology student, found the tour interesting.
“I was really interested in how their engineering team builds a rocket,” he said. “It is a different type of rocket and a first-of-its-kind design. My favorite part of the tour was when we were introduced to the computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines. I thought it was interesting how a CNC machine grabs a roll of steel and welds it. Then there is another CNC machine that examines those welds and fixes any cracks.”
The second-semester student’s interest in engineering began at a young age. As a child, he pulled different items apart and put them back together. He was part of the robotics club at his former high school.
“We built various types of robots for many competitions at Brownsville Early College High School,” he said. “Then we took those robots to the elementary schools to start engineering after-school activities for the students.”
He is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology.
Gabriella Moore, of Harlingen, a TSTC alumna and current Welding Technology student, said this was also her first visit to SpaceX.
“What excites me about the tour is not knowing what to expect,” she said. “I found it fascinating how every employee is hands-on and contributes to the bigger picture.”
Moore was introduced to welding through her father and grandfather. With a father who is an engineer, and a grandfather who builds rockets for the United Launch Alliance in Harlingen, she enjoyed working on various projects with them at a young age.
She returned to welding in high school to complete an elective course. Her artistic side began to emerge. After graduation, she chose TSTC to expand that talent.
Moore earned a certificate of completion in Structural Welding from TSTC in fall 2021. Now she will graduate in April with both a certificate of completion in Structural and Pipe Welding and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology.
To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.