BY Amanda Sotelo

The RGV Space Summit was recently hosted at Texas State Technical College to introduce the Harlingen Aerotropolis project and inform students of the educational opportunities the project will bring to skilled graduates from Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs.

“We have a gold mine with Harlingen Aerotropolis,” said Frank Espinoza, manager of community affairs for American Electric Power Texas, during his summit speech. “Events like this show that we, as a group, see full potential in this project and are ready to cater to the aerospace industry.”

Harlingen Aerotropolis is a 450-acre AEP quality site that was created to increase the number of project-ready industrial sites. The Aerotropolis will be home to four development districts: aeronautical, light industry, business complex and general retail, all centered around the Valley International Airport.

“This is going to transform our region,” said Espinoza. “But a young, trainable workforce is critical to the aerotropolis’ success.”

Marv Esterly, director of aviation for Valley International Airport, said the overall goal of the summit was to speak to students about the importance of pursuing STEM careers.

“Many of the programs at TSTC, from welding to mechatronics and engineering, have a place in the aerospace industry,” said Esterly. “Today we need to show TSTC students what possibilities there are and how they can take advantage of these high-tech, high-paying jobs coming to our area soon.”

United Launch Alliance, NASA and Agile Aero led informational sessions for high school and TSTC students enrolled in STEM programs. Each session was 40 minutes long and highlighted each company’s profile, introduced students to instruments and equipment they will be using in the field and explained the importance of STEM skills to the aerospace industry.

“Today’s event is opening a lot of opportunities for us,” said Genesis Martinez, TSTC Aviation Maintenance Technology student. “This is really helping me decide what I want to do after TSTC. It’s giving me more insight into companies and what to expect in the field.”

Beyond the classroom, TSTC students in the Architectural Design and Engineering Graphic program are working closely with the Harlingen Aerotropolis project drawing, rendering and completing 3D images of the testing facilities and buildings that will one day make up the aerotropolis.

“These students have not disappointed. Every task we give them, they complete successfully,” said Esterly. “We’ll be able to use their 3D models to market to the companies we want to attract to Harlingen Aerotropolis. We’re excited about our future and our close relationship with TSTC.”

The students working on the aerotropolis project will be traveling to NASA to tour actual testing facilities to help with their designs for the Harlingen Aerotropolis.

“Our faculty and staff are the heartbeat of TSTC,” said TSTC Provost Dr. Stella Garcia. “Our students are prepared for the workforce because of projects like this and when they graduate they get high-paying jobs.”

Program info

For more information on any of the technology programs listed, please visit tstc.edu. Registration for Summer 2016 and Fall 2016 is now in progress.