BY Amanda Sotelo
Texas State Technical College recently held the SkillsUSA State Conference in Waco and the students from TSTC in Harlingen brought home the wins making the south Texas campus a leader in the most medals won.
A total of 32 medals were earned, 20 of those were gold. All gold medal winners will be competing in the National SkillsUSA Leadership Conference in Kentucky June 20-24.
“This year was very successful. We had more programs with gold medal winners and top three finalists than previous years,” said Isaac Gonzalez, TSTC SkillsUSA coordinator. “We’re hoping for the best from our students at nationals and hoping for a few gold medals, but most importantly, our students are competing for one goal and that’s to be the best at what they do.”
SkillsUSA is a professional organization teaching technical, academic and employability skills that help high school and college students pursue successful technical careers. Members build these skills through student-led team meetings, contests, leadership conferences and other activities.
Students in SkillsUSA participate in hands-on competitions in various fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, carpentry and urban search and rescue.
Ricardo Santos, one of the team members who earned gold in the Robotic Urban Search and Rescue category of the competition, said he is proud of his and his team member Cecilia Zebrowski’s gold medal win. Both Santos and Zebrowski are Precision Machining Technology majors pursuing associate degrees at TSTC.
“We were both so excited when we learned we had won,” said Santos. “But also very nervous, because now it meant we are going to compete against the best robotics teams from each state.”
Like other SkillsUSA participants and teams, Santos and Zebrowski prepared for competition in the evenings, sometimes being on campus as late at 9 p.m. This time was used to perfect their design on their robot Stang, in homage to TSTC’s now retired mascot the mustang.
Both Santos and Zebrowski got support from large businesses such as the Harlingen Manufacturing Association and United Launch Alliance which each donated $500 s for a robot kit for the competition.
“We at ULA have a high regard for TSTC’s technical curriculum as it aligns with our overall support for STEM-related programs,” said Tim Piller, ULA site lead. “Providing support to the urban search and rescue team enables the inspired team members the opportunity to compete and display their talents.”
Zebrowski said she is looking forward to the national conference and preparations for the competition are underway. She said the donations they received have helped tremendously.
“These donations have been such a huge help. When we started we had nothing but a pencil and some software to design our robot,” said Zebrowski. “We are both overwhelmed and honored that these major local companies were willing to invest in us. We hope we can prove ourselves worthy with our robotics skills at nationals.”
For more information on SkillsUSA or Precision Machining Technology, call 956-364-4815.
Registration for Summer and Fall 2016 is in progress. Apply or register anytime online at tstc.edu.