Valley ninth-graders visit UTRGV Brownsville Campus, build mBot

  Tuesday, January 28, 2020

By Letty Fernandez

 PHOTO GALLERY by David Pike

BROWNSVILE, TEXAS – About 120 ninth-graders from across the Rio Grande Valley took part in UTRGV’s Gear Up Days on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at the UTRGV Brownsville Campus.

The students, part of the UTRGV Gear Up College in ACTion! Program, came from Brownsville’s Porter, Lopez and Rivera high schools; Edinburg Economedes High School; La Joya High School; and Juarez-Lincoln High School in La Joya.

The students were welcomed by Dr. Mahmoud Quweider, UTRGV associate dean for P-16 Integration and Graduate Programs, and heard a talk about robots from Dr. Jesus Gonzalez, lecturer in the UTRGV Engineering and Computer Department, as a lead-in to the engineering challenge.

Students were placed into small groups and built an mBot using the engineering design method. Then, they got to test drive it.

Ezra Esquivel, a freshman at Brownsville’s Porter High School, said he enjoyed the presentations, but he especially enjoyed building the mBot.

“We are learning more because it’s hands-on, instead of watching. We are learning in a better way, you can experience it more,” said Esquievel, who loves robotics and plans to study mechanical engineering in college. “It’s coming to life, instead of us just imagining it in our heads.”

Gear Up Days is hosted by UTRGV’s HESTEC – the Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology program. Working with the colleges and area schools, events are designed to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Dr. Martha Cantu, director of UTRGV Gear UP, said the idea is to expose students to as many future job options as possible, so they can see what is out there.

“They may know about engineering, but they may not know about the different types of engineering,” she said. “We want to provide them with many more career options.”

Another group of students interested in the sciences will return for Gear Up activities Wednesday, Jan. 29, on the UTRGV Brownsville Campus. And on Thursday, Jan. 30, Gear  Up Days moves to the University Ballroom on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus. The health professions will be on the agenda.

In all, 400 area students will take part in UTRGV’s Gear Up Days this year.

“We also want to make sure they are taking the right coursework in high school, so when they transition to a university, it will be a smooth transition and it will be easier for them,” Cantu said.

As part of Gear Up College in ACTion!, UTRGV is partnering with the Brownsville Independent School District, La Joya Independent School District and Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District to provide support services to about 3,900 students, to include tutoring, mentoring, offering dual enrollment classes and college tours. Teachers also are supported with professional development opportunities and other resources.

In March, HESTEC will host eighth-grade students in the Region 1 Gear Up program.

For more information, about the UTRGV Gear Up program, visit


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.