Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

UTSA invites students on STEM adventure


UTSA’s Family STEM day began on an autumn Saturday morning on the Main Campus. Attendees children ranged from 4-year-olds with their parents to high schoolers. Those who attended UTSA’s Family STEM Day learned about potential careers through interactive games, building experiments and robot competitions. The event marked the beginning of San Antonio’s STEM week, which was formed by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to promote STEM careers through free events around the city.

“The key is to prepare yourself for (STEM) jobs — You have the opportunity,” said Rudy Reyna, the executive director of the San Antonio Prefreshman Engineering Program (PREP) in his opening speech for STEM day.

Retired NASA training specialist, Debbie Ramos Trainor and the inventor of the app We Walk 14-year-old Estrella Hernandez were the key speakers.

“My career is one I never would have thought of,” said Trainor. “I never had any goals for after high school — just to get married and have children.”

Trainor joined the Texas Air National Guard after high school, and after being exposed to some of NASA’s work, she realized that she wanted to work for NASA. She became a secretary for the administration as she worked on her college degrees.

“It’s good to have a big goal,” said Trainor, “but you have to take it one step at a time.”

Trainor became the training manager for Expedition 1 of the International Space Station. She worked with American astronauts in Russia and was the lead trainer for astronaut candidates.

“My family never went to college,” said Trainor. “I never would have imagined doing this.”

Hernandez’s speech focused onwas about her app, We Walk.

“It’s an app for kids to get fit without having to run marathons,” explained Hernandez. “It’s a way to have fun on the weekends.”

Hernandez, a PREP student and freshman at Alamo Heights High School, first started working on the project after seeing the documentary “Supersize Me” in her sixth grade health class. Hernandez researched diabetes and, discovering its debilitating effects, decided to pilot her app as a way to keep kids healthy by excercising.

Three years later, her app, which motivates children to walk by awarding points for walking, is in its beta testing phase.

“If you have an idea, I encourage you to pursue it—no matter how silly or nebulous it may seem,” advised Hernandez.

After the keynote speeches, students and their parents separated into groups and visited panels that discussed specific STEM careers. Some of the panel presenters included the Witte Museum, Harmony Science Academy, Texas Instruments, UTSA College of Engineering, South San High School Robotics Team, UTSA Chemistry Society and UTSA’s PREP program.

The UTSA Chemistry Society taught their students how to make a pH indicator using cabbage juice and had them test the pH of various items.

“We want to show them that there’s more to science than just sitting in a lecture class,” said Araceli Valdovinos, a junior chemistry major.

Former captain of the South San Robotics Team Justin Chapko agreed. “We want to get these kids exposed to (opportunities in STEM),” said Chapko. “Maybe they like it or maybe they don’t like it – but now they know what’s out there.”

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