Texas Border Business
By Joey Gomez
McALLEN, Texas – South Texas College leaves the doors wide open for future career possibilities as well as near limitless ideas to create, according to STC Welding student Laura Cavazos, who combines art with her passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Always artistically inclined, she takes a minute to think about her next steps – should she use what she has learned as a welding student at STC to create “beautiful metal sculptures?” or maybe she can apply what she has gathered as a student in STC’s Mechatronics program to create 3D imagery or something interesting with pneumatics?
For Cavazos, it’s all about being versatile, and when it came to choosing her degree track, she sought out something that enabled her to combine her creativity with applications in welding and mechatronics, she said.
“I have always wanted to be able to build with my own hands and I have dabbled in everything from woodwork and glasswork to jewelry and metalwork. I love creating,” Cavazos said. “When I discovered welding at STC and participated in my first welding experience I realized that I really could do anything. Now, I want to build, and with knowledge in mechatronics, the future is wide open.”
With a journey that started at STC in the fall of 2021, Cavazos is now pursuing a Combination Welding certificate and is eyeing another certificate in Mechatronics Technology by fall 2023.
While at STC, Cavazos said the college enabled her to branch out and get involved in student activities. These days she participates in Student Government Association (SGA) and Student Leadership Academy, while gaining valuable work experience at a local company specializing in pneumatics and suspension services for vehicles.
“I was so fortunate to get a job at IHC suspension, which gives me experience in both robotics and welding. I get to practice in a job that is robot-welding specific, and I love it more every day,” Cavazos said. “I have always felt the need to get my hands dirty. I want that experience, being in the hot sun, covered in muck and dirt. Here in the welding shop, we’re all sweaty 24/7 and we are covered in dust, and we look terrible; but we don’t care because we’re just having fun.”
STC’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology program is the first in the state of Texas to earn National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) accreditation, which means that graduates from the program are nationally certified and can be competitive candidates when job hunting. An estimated 6,000 American companies use the accreditation as a basis for hiring.
At the college, cutting-edge training labs utilize top-level equipment typically found in industry, and right from the start students become well versed in areas such as robotics, computers, industrial prints and technical skills.
Faculty with Advanced Manufacturing Technology say that one of Cavazos’ biggest strengths is inspiring new approaches and innovative solutions to complex problems, especially by adding art into STEM.
“Laura sets the example of the benefits of STEM in technical education. She brings creativity and innovation to the table,” said Erika Guerra, Advanced Manufacturing Technology department chair. “One instance of her creativity can be witnessed during her participation in the Jaguars Manufacturing Club, where she merged artistic elements with technical expertise to help us create robotics projects. Specifically, she used her design ideas as well as welding skills to ensure that a robot’s frame she has been working on not only possessed excellent structural support but also had an aesthetic appeal.”
For more information on STC’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology program visit www.southtexascollege.edu/academics/manufacturing/index.html.