By Amanda Sotelo, TSTC Staff
All the way from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Travis Massera knew that Texas State Technical College held the key to his success.
The 24-year-old is a Mechatronics Technology student and expects to earn an associate degree in Spring 2020.
But this wasn’t Massera’s first go at a college education. Immediately out of high school he enrolled at a university in his hometown as a sports administration major with a minor in business.
“I was studying subjects I really had no interest in. I felt forced to choose a major and I didn’t give it much thought,” said Massera. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so instead of wasting money and time, I dropped out.”
Unsure of his future, Massera worked in the oil and gas industry for several years. He traveled a few times a week to various states such as West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland.
“The work was tedious. It was five years of long hours, long shifts and a lot of travel,” he said. “And although I loved the paychecks, I was tired and I knew I needed something more.”
Massera’s grandfather and grandmother are annual Winter Texans to the Valley, and had purchased a couple of boats from the Lashbrook’s family boat shop in Rio Hondo; a family who also has close ties with TSTC.
It was during a trip down that Massera’s grandfather introduced him to Mechatronics Technology alumnus Matt Lashbrook, whose aunt is TSTC Associate Provost Jean Lashbrook.
It was a valuable tie to the Rio Grande Valley that changed his future for the better.
“Matt now has a successful career with Chevron and he credits his success to TSTC,” said Massera. “His recommendation, advice and positivity about the college is what inspired me to enroll. It didn’t take long for me to pack my bags and move south.”
Only a short three weeks after speaking with Lashbrook, Massera was sitting in a classroom ready to focus on his future.
He said there was some protests from his family, mainly because he was moving so far from home, but they were supportive of his endeavor.
“TSTC has been such a breath of fresh air for me,” he said. “Here faculty and staff care about their students; we’re not just a number. And close attention is paid to helping us choose a career that is right for us. TSTC was my missing puzzle piece.”
With no regrets in the decisions he has made and with hopes of brighter career opportunities, Massera said he has discovered talents he didn’t know he had.
“I have gained a new passion for robotics. Who knew I could be good at it?” he said. “But mechatronics combines various fields into one and it has opened my eyes to new possibilities. I know with a degree from this program, I will always have a job.”
Mechatronics Technology combines the learning of mechanical, electronic and robotic skills, skills Massera didn’t know he could learn or possess.
Massera said it is TSTC’s hands-on teaching approach that has helped him.
“I still have a couple of semesters before graduating, but I can honestly say that with the skills I have learned, combined with my knowledge of the oil and gas industry, I am fully confident and prepared to enter the workforce,” he said. “I’m actually eager to start working again.”
Recently, Massera has been working closely with classmates in building and programming robots to take to high schools when they make presentations about the program.
Massera has also been working closely with other students in creating a Robotics Club on campus.
“If not for TSTC I would have probably never left the oilfields,” said Massera. “Now my career opportunities are endless and I have so much to look forward to.”