Father’s example guides UTRGV mechanical engineering student to dream internship at NASA

UTRGV senior Andres Garcia, a mechanical engineering student, begins a long-awaited internship in late August as a NASA intern. Garcia, who is from Pharr, said he comes from a family of immigrants and farmworkers, but had the example of a father who valued education and set an example by earning a college degree. (UTRGV Photo by Silver Salas)

UTRGV senior Andres Garcia, a mechanical engineering student, begins a long-awaited internship in late August as a NASA intern. Garcia, who is from Pharr, said he comes from a family of immigrants and farmworkers, but had the example of a father who valued education and set an example by earning a college degree. (UTRGV Photo by Silver Salas)

By Steven Masso

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – AUG. 1, 2017 – When UTRGV senior Andres Garcia starts his internship at NASA this summer, he will be thinking about his father.

“I come from a family of immigrants,” said Garcia, who grew up in Pharr. “My dad worked in the fields picking onions his entire childhood. His parents only had a high school and middle school education.”

But his father eventually would earn a bachelor’s degree in science and become a medical technologist at a Valley hospital.

“That’s the pinnacle of it all, that’s the reason I go to school,” Garcia said. “If my dad was able to pull it off, with all odds against him, there’s no excuse for me not to excel in school.”

Garcia, who is majoring in mechanical engineering, will take part in the NASA internship starting this summer, based at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, from Aug. 28 – Dec. 15.

His job will be CubeSat mechanism prototyping; CubeSat’s are satellites that are lighter and more cost efficient than the typical satellite.

“I’ll be working on new mechatronics-related mechanisms for the CubeSat technology,” Garcia said. “I’ll be designing them, manufacturing them and testing them.”

He has been working toward an internship at NASA for most of his life, he said. During his freshman year of college, he spoke with a NASA recruiter at a career fair held at the university who recommended that he join organizations and gain experience in the field.

He did just that. Joining industry organizations – like the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Material Advantage, Rocket Launchers, and Mini Baja – taught him how important networking would be to being a success, he said.

Garcia said he plans to apply to NASA Pathways, a program that could open the door to two more internships and the possibility of a job as a full-time NASA employee.

His father, Mario Garcia, said he is proud of his son’s hard work and perseverance.

“He’s very dedicated and focused,” he said. “It was my birthday when he told me the news. It was an amazing present for me.”

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