AFTER 15 YEARS, UTRGV’S HESTEC CONTINUES TO INFLUENCE THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS AND EDUCATORS IN SOUTH TEXAS
Story courtesy of
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
HESTEC, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s popular celebration of all things STEM, marked its quinceañera this year with South Texas flair. Throughout its 15-year history, Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week has had an impact on more than a million students, educators and families changing their worlds through exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
Created to address the critical shortage of scientists and engineers in the United States, HESTEC has grown into an astronomical event featuring workshops and competitions, along with entertaining, educational presentations by some of today’s most influential people in the STEM fields.
Recognized as a “Bright Spot in Hispanic Education” in 2015 by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, HESTEC has established itself as a nationally acclaimed program for promoting STEM to students of all ages.
“HESTEC is going to help us change the narrative,” said Alejandra Ceja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Ceja attended opening day of HESTEC 2016 and presented UTRGV with the 2015 Bright Spot recognition, which will be part of a national online catalog of more than 230 programs that invest in key education priorities for Hispanics.
“I applaud the great investments you have made to create HESTEC, the Center of Excellence in STEM Education, stem-focused Early College High Schools, and robotics programs right here in South Texas that are preparing students for the jobs of the 21st century,” Ceja said. “People come from all over to the Rio Grande Valley to see the STEM opportunities that you all have made come true for students.”
Since HESTEC began, the program has influenced more than 8,000 educators, more than 58,000 students and, through its career expo, about 22,000 college students.
“When we started, at least, I didn’t really dream it was going to be what it is,” said Dr. Miguel Nevárez, then president of UTRGV legacy institution The University of Texas-Pan American. “That first year, we had it as a trial basis. Our students really enjoyed it, and we enjoyed putting it on. When we started bringing in public school kids, the parents and the community, it just blossomed.”
HESTEC was spearheaded by Nevárez and U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15).
“Reflecting on these past 15 years of HESTEC, I am proud that thousands of students in South Texas and beyond have been given an outstanding outlet to learn about the growing opportunities in STEM education,” Hinojosa said. “My heart swells with pride on the success of this event.”
This year’s weeklong conference was held Oct. 2-8 and featured HESTEC’s signature events: Community Day, Educator Day, Student Leadership Day, Latina Day, and Robotics Day.
Among the most important events is HESTEC’s Student Leadership Day, which this year drew 900 local high school seniors to hear from inspiring Latino leaders in the STEM fields. In addition, students participated in interactive breakout sessions and activities designed to ignite student interest and create awareness of the opportunities available.
Girl power ruled Latina Day 2016, with more than 700 mothers and daughters converging on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus to hear words of inspiration from prominent, successful Hispanic women like Sara Martinez Tucker, a University of Texas System Board Regent and former CEO/president of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund; Rosa Flores, CNN correspondent; and Dr. Monica Regalbuto, U.S. Department of Energy assistant secretary for Environmental Management.
“Remember, Latina women are smart and Latina women are strong,” Regalbuto told the mothers and daughters attending Latina Day.
In 2016, HESTEC expanded its events to Harlingen and Brownsville, including student events like Robotics Day and the Sea Perch Challenge. The Career Expo, which features recruiters from federal agencies, corporations and local businesses, was held on the UTRGV Brownsville Campus, and the annual expo was held on the Edinburg Campus.
The biggest event of the week, the always popular Community Day, attracts more than 50,000 people and features hands-on STEM activities that showcase UTRGV’s innovative students and faculty, as well as celebrity entertainment that has included Disney stars, Animal Planet’s Jeff Corwin, Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, actress Rita Moreno, Bill Nye the Science Guy, comedian Paul Rodriguez, country crooner Chris Young, alumnus Valente Rodriguez, and many more.
To learn more about HESTEC, visit www.utrgv.edu/hestec. •