Tesla Bound: Manufacturing student prepares for the opportunity of a lifetime
Bryant Salinas (above) has accepted an internship with Tesla Inc. for the spring 2022 semester. Salinas, who is currently studying for his bachelor’s degree in Engineering Manufacturing at UTRGV and certificate in Precision Manufacturing Technology from South Texas College says working with machines is in his blood.
Years spent in his father’s garage as a boy are paying off for Bryant Salinas, a South Texas College student.
Having long been exposed to machines as a child, and with a natural affinity for math and calculation, Salinas said he dreamed about a career as an engineer. The love of building and repairing was in his blood from the beginning, he said.
Now one step away from finishing a bachelor’s degree in Manufacturing Engineering from the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, Salinas says he is preparing for the trip of a lifetime, interning with Tesla Inc., a nearly trillion dollar electric vehicle and clean energy company, for a semester in Buffalo, NY.
“I mean, at first I didn’t believe it,” Salinas said. “Now I feel like I can’t wait to enter the facility and begin working for the company. From electronics and components to automation, I'm hoping to be a part of that.”
Salinas is working on a certificate in Precision Manufacturing Technology from STC. He has been training with FANUC robotics to understand automation concepts. STC faculty are preparing him for the new career adventure.
“When I first found out that I was going to be interning at Tesla I remember reaching out to instructor (Erika) Guerra and telling her that they contacted me for the position, and I told her I was hoping that she could help me because I knew she was familiar with robotics,” Salinas said. “She was happy to help me get accustomed with the robots and review the basic questions with me on how to operate the robotics, how they work, and even questions I could ask them (Tesla) on the processes they have.”
Born in McAllen, Texas, Salinas said he left for Mexico with his family at a young age. As a mechanic and repairman, his father was very much in demand across the border, and he serviced the maquilas even though he had a limited education.
“I mean, at first I didn’t believe it. Now I feel like I can’t wait to enter the facility and begin working for the company. From electronics and components to automation, I'm hoping to be a part of that.”
His father had a natural ability with machines and that was something that was passed from father to son, Salinas said.
“He was pretty much in charge of his own career and he knew machines just through his own hands-on experience,” he said. “I grew up in those workshops and with him looking for jobs even though he didn’t get a few because he didn’t have a certification. But I remember you could ask him to fix anything and he would, because even though he didn’t have the certification, he did have the experience.”
This prompted the younger Salinas to achieve what his father couldn’t. When he arrived back in the United States from Mexico in middle school he knew he was here to stay, and immersed himself in his studies until graduating from PSJA Southwest Early College High School.
“I realized that I liked to make stuff. I realized that engineering was the best path for me,” he said. “I saw the different types of engineering. I got some advice from my professors (and) they had encouraged me to study mechanical engineering so I could study a little of everything.”
Over the past year, Salinas said he had been courting various companies for internships until that fateful day when Tesla contacted him for an interview.
“Bryant is a great student and the faculty is happy to have him in the manufacturing program. We are motivated to teach him because he is always eager to learn more,” said STC Advanced Manufacturing Technology instructor, Erika Guerra. “He stands out because he asks questions, stays after class and comes in on his own time. Bryant is curious, motivated and hard-working; an exemplary student.”
Tesla operates out of a 1.2 million square-foot facility in Buffalo. In 2019, Tesla added new production lines to support electrical components for supercharger and energy storage projects, according to the company website. Tesla has been in the news for its reported plans to achieve 50 percent average annual growth in vehicle deliveries over a multi-year span.
Salinas plans to intern with the company from January to May 2022.
“For students who want to succeed in their careers, I would tell them to go forward. Even if you are afraid or worried that you might get rejected, it’s important to not be intimidated,” Salinas said. “In the end, I know Tesla trusts me and I plan to do my best, to get involved and enjoy the opportunities to interact with other people.”
Salinas eventually hopes to get his master’s degree in Engineering.