EDINBURG - The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley kicked off its Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week with a formal Congressional Dinner on Sunday, Oct. 2, at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

UTRGV is celebrating the 15th anniversary of HESTEC, a week of activities and events designed to spur interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields for middle and high school students. The program has earned national recognition and hosts more than 50,000 people each year, for a total impact of more than 1 million.

“When we started, at least, I didn’t really dream it was going to be what it is. That first year we had it as a trial basis, and our students really enjoyed it and we enjoyed putting it on,” said Dr. Miguel Nevárez, then president of UTRGV legacy institution The University of Texas-Pan American. “When we started bringing in public school kids, the parents and the community, it just blossomed, and it’s been great.”

HESTEC was spearheaded by Nevárez and U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, who represents Texas District 15.

“Reflecting on these past 15 years of HESTEC, I am proud that thousands of students in South Texas and beyond have been given an outstanding outlet to learn about the growing opportunities in STEM education,” Hinojosa said. “My heart swells with pride on the success of this event, and I look forward to celebrating with everyone at this year’s HESTEC Week.”

In honor of his years of commitment and dedication to the program, Hinojosa was presented with the HESTEC CiENCiA award. The award draws its name from the Spanish word for “science” and is based on an acronym for “Champions in Engineering and Science Advancement.” 

Students Maria Romero and Bernabe Joshua Saucedo designed and crafted the award, and worked with Yoli Cantu of McAllen Stained Glass to craft it. The award has visual symbols related to STEM.

Hinojosa was visibly moved as he accepted the award.

“I am deeply honored by this award and these students who designed and created it. I am surprised,” he said, “and moved.”

To mark HESTEC’s 15th anniversary, UTRGV also announced a new scholarship program for students pursing a degree in a STEM-related field.

“What better way to mark this historic milestone than by creating a scholarship program to help students … Change the world through STEMS,” said Veronica Gonzales, UTRGV vice president for Governmental and Community Relations. “We are still working on the details, but hope to have more information very soon.”

The new scholarship program will be called HESTEC SCHOLARS OF STEM and will be available to Rio Grande Valley high school seniors entering UTRGV and pursuing a degree in a STEM-related field.

HESTEC Week runs from Oct. 2 through Oct. 8. Many of the events are held on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus, but this year HESTEC expands to Brownsville with its Robotics competition, and to Harlingen with its SeaPerch Challenge.

The community is invited to attend HESTEC Community Day on Saturday, Oct. 8, for a free festival of family friendly activities, entertainment and more.

For a complete list of HESTEC events, visit www.utrgv.edu/hestec.