RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley received a 5 million dollar grant to help enhance the nation’s ability to produce materials critical to defense.   

The money is part of a program from the U.S. Department of Defense and it goes to communities helping enhance the nation’s ability to create material needed for national defense.

Students showcased some of the equipment used giving guests a first hand look at where the funds are going. 

“We’re trying to grow a very important industry sector called casting and forging. So that is about how do you fabricate critical metals,” James Li, Director of Center for Advance Manufacturing Innovation at UTRGV said. 

Members of the defense department got a tour of the manufacturing and industrial engineering department. 

Li says this work is preparing students for the industry to be robotic operators and builders.   

“This is going to be the future of Texas, our region right they need to invest to us to grow our economy. So that our kiddos when the graduate they have a job here.” Li said. 

One of the projects students are currently working on is 3-D printing a drone, making the drone less dense and more durable in rough environments.   

“So the equipment we demonstrated, there are different different methods of additive manufacturing. So we try to grow all the different of the full spectrum,” Li said. 

Li adds UTRGV is the only university in Texas to be awarded this grant.

He says this money opens the door for students and will provide them with more tools to continue their studies.   

“We look forward to training as many operators, workers who understand, who know how to be operating the high tech manufacturing processes,”  Li said. 

UTRGV was able to contribute 2.5 million dollars, giving the department 7.5 million dollars for this project.