TSTC brings home multiple national SkillsUSA medals

BY Amanda Sotelo

It was a big win for Texas State Technical College at the National SkillsUSA Leadership Conference in Kentucky.

Just last week five Rio Grande Valley TSTC students earned gold medals in Robotics Urban Search and Rescue and bronze medals in Community Service, a first-time event for TSTC.

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 culinary arts.

The students who earned the gold medal in Robotics Urban Search and Rescue are Michael Arreola, a TSTC Mechatronics Technology student, and Rick Santos, a recent Mechatronics Technology and Tool and Die Technology graduate.

Santos, who earned his place at the national competition while still a student, said he and Arreola began preparing for this competition since the end of last year’s SkillsUSA national competition.

“It takes nearly a full year to build our robot and prepare it just right for competition,” said Santos.

Winning the gold medal means that this team of two excelled in their written test, presentation, engineering notebook submission and execution of their robot.

Both men agree they were expecting to win second or third place, and when they were not called for either, they were positive they had not placed at all.

“It was definitely a good feeling hearing we had received the gold medal,” said Arreola. “It was an awesome experience being there, winning and hearing the crowd cheer for us.”

The TSTC Community Service team and bronze medal winners are Alexandra Lugo, a Mathematics and Business Management Technology major; Jacqueline Cruz, Agricultural Technology graduate and academic core student; and Yajaira Gonzalez, Biology major.

These women represented the TSTC’s Building Construction Technology community service project with Habitat for Humanity. Throughout the year the building construction students volunteer with habitat and use their skills to build homes for low-income families.

“It was great to show how our students use their technical skills to benefit our community,” said Lugo.

The women worked long hours after their classes and jobs to complete the community service binder they were going to submit and prepare for the presentation in front of a panel of judges.

“It was definitely a challenge, but we were in it to win it,” Lugo added. “When we found out we won, we were about ready to cry. I’m very proud of all us.”

Eldwin Leija, TSTC Automated Manufacturing Technology instructor and Larissa Moreno, TSTC recruitment coordinator, said they are very proud of their students’ recent achievements at SkillsUSA.

“TSTC Mechatronics is proud of what Rick and Michael have accomplished. We’re not only proud of their first place win, but of all they have achieved,” said Leija. “We expect nothing but the best from our students because we know they have it in them to be the best in all they do.”

“I’m so proud of my girls. They worked really hard and truly deserve this recognition,” said Moreno. “Our goal was to go out there and represent TSTC, Habitat for Humanity and the RGV well, and we ended up bringing home the first medal for TSTC in our category.”

In all, TSTC campuses statewide won seven medals at nationals, three gold, one silver and three bronze.