SpaceX launching local interest in STEM

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The number of jobs in the STEM field in the Rio Grande Valley continues to increase as more aerospace jobs come to the area.

Paragon VTOL Aerospace announced on Monday that more companies are coming to the Brownsville area to help their infrastructure.

There’s more scientific exploration than that happening in the Rio Grande Valley; Harlingen CISD is one of several school districts with an entire building dedicated to science.

“Anybody can learn any topic, it is taking what you know and what you learn and creating and producing something else,” Linda Salinas, a “Project Lead the Way” teacher at STEM Squared in Harlingen.

The STEM-focused school opened in Harlingen four years ago and has been fostering scientific interest in students ever since.

Children are naturally curious, something the school is designed to take advantage of.

“It’s that big ‘why?’. Why, why, why do I need to know this and how is this really going to impact me. They see it and live it every day here at STEM,” Salinas said.

This isn’t science class like most adults grew up with. The hands-on collaborative approach allows students to learn and grow interested in a variety of studies organically.

“So many things related to all fields. We do art in here, we’re doing the building, we’re using saws, we’re using drills, they’re learning about robots and automation, coding,” Salinas said.

It’s one thing to have companies like SpaceX and Paragon VTOL Aerospace move into the area and create jobs in the field, the STEM school gives students a head start with a hands-on learning experience.

“We partner with the community, we do take trips out to SpaceX, we have taken our students out to Gladys Porter Zoo,” Salinas said.

Those are more than just field trips according to Salinas. “We’re actually doing research, we’re building solutions,” she said.

Salinas said the interest in STEM has always been present in the Valley, but the jobs were often out of town. That meant students would have to choose between home or their dream job. 

“Now with all of these major corporations coming in, opportunity is right here. And, the best part is, they can see what it is that I need to be in that job or that field or that career,” she said.

STEM Squared is open to all middle school students in Harlingen CISD on an application basis.

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