EDINBURG, Texas – Best friends Nathanial de Leon and Ray Vela are recognized as “Pioneers of Engineering”. The two middle school students were honored at a recent ceremony hosted by the UTRGV College of Engineering and Computer Science and offered full scholarships.
Dr. Ala Qubbaj, UTRGV, “I want to keep the best and the smartest and most passionate students. Rey and Nathanial are those students that I would love to keep and I’ll do everything I can to help them be successful.”
The 7th graders at Veterans Middle School in Donna worked together to create a prosthetic arm for Nathanial, who was born without a right hand, using a 3-D printer.
The boys credit their teacher, Daniel Gonzalez, for making it possible and are working together on an updated version.
“This time it’s going to have a motor attached. This time it’s going to have more grip and we’re going to put a pressure censor on it.” said Nathanial.
Nathaniel and Ray created the hand about a month ago and shared their story across a number of news outlets. Upon learning of their accomplishment, Dr. Qubbaj reached out to the boys’ teacher to meet them.
It was not only their smarts that impressed him.
“Those students they’re going to make amazing engineers because they not only have the best minds, they have the best hearts to make a difference and to help others.” said Dr. Qubbaj.
While Nathanial is happy to have his arm, he says not having one never stopped him from going after his dreams.
“It doesn’t matter if you have one hand or not. It’s just sometimes kids that do have or persons that have two hands are lazy. Even though you have one hand you can do more stuff then them.” said Nathanial.
The friends say they will seriously consider UTRGV’s offer and are excited to continue developing their skills throughout their middle school and high school years ahead.
Their teacher was also recognized, receiving an outstanding teacher award.