The University of Texas-Pan American is going green for its 9th annual Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) week, which aims to provide South Texas students and teachers with the tools needed to pursue careers in STEM fields.

This year, coordinators of HESTEC say they plan to promote an environmentally friendly message with the theme entitled “Plan It Green: Your Tomorrow. Today". UTPA kicked off a weeklong slate of events that began on Monday, and ends with Community Day on Oct. 2 on the UTPA campus. 

The University has counted as many as 50,000 attendees in previous years at HESTEC, according to event coordinators.

"With current times, there is a need now more than ever for engineers and scientists, so we really want to promote being green and environmentally friendly. A lot of these exhibits promote that, and it's a theme we want to be able to carry across the years." said Karen Dorado, special projects coordinator at the Department of Community Engagement at UTPA. The department organizes and implements HESTEC. 

The University will host top ranking officials throughout the week, who arrive from a myriad of different industries and fields.

UTPA holds Latina Day today, Sept. 29, which looks to celebrate and promote women in the STEM fields. Keynote speakers are State Rep. Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen, and Edna Campos Gravenhorst, author and historical researcher. 

UTPA will host Robotics Day on Sept. 30. A HESTEC highlight for high school and UTPA students is the Robotics Sumo Competition where teams compete for prizes. The contest offers students the chance to build robots out of Lego Mindstorm NXT 2.0 Robot kits, with the help of UTPA engineering students, and get a first-hand learning experience on robotics engineering and programming.

HESTEC will hold its annual Career Expo, which is open to the general public, at the UTPA Fieldhouse from 10 a.m.-3 p.m on Oct. 1. Thousands of South Texas college students are expected to attend and meet with Fortune 500 company representatives in the hopes of landing their dream jobs. The expo is open to all majors and all areas of study.

"Community day is not just about fun and entertainment. It's about the educational importance of being interested in science, technology and mathematics. It's motivating young children to be interested in these areas so they can be engineers or scientists or astronauts," Dorado said.

"They (children) can dream to be whatever they want. Community day brings it all together in one huge package. It's fun and educational, and we invite the entire family," she said.

This year HESTEC will be part of the NASA Summer of Innovation program hosted by the Johnson Space Center in Houston throughout the week. UTPA is one of a few venues across the state selected by JSC to host the program, which is part of a national initiative by NASA, and will feature educational presentations and exhibits for middle school students.

Major sponsors for HESTEC 2010 include Marathon Oil Corporation for Educator Day, Lockheed Martin for Student Leadership Day, ExxonMobil for Latina Day, Raytheon for Robotics Day and HEB for Community Day.

HESTEC Community Day will kick off at 4 p.m. at the UTPA Quad with exhibits including Futurelab, SciGirls and Terri the Robot. NASA's Spidernaut will make its first appearance at UTPA. The eight-legged robot prototype forms the basis for a series of new arachnid class of extra vehicular robots.

In addition, NASA astronaut Lee Morin, M.D., Ph.D will make his first visit to the campus. Morin has been with NASA since 1996 and served on the STS-110 Atlantis in 2002. He has logged more than 259 hours in space. Morin is a qualified submarine medical officer and trained flight surgeon.

Community Day will also feature free musical entertainment from Tejano artists Jay Perez, Marco Orozco, Bobby Pulido, and norteño group Duelo.