Author Archives: Ben Barkley

Sen. Buckingham visits TSTC Emergency Medical Services lab

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, was able to see Texas State Technical College students in training during a visit to the Brownwood campus this week.

Buckingham, who represents District 24 in the Texas Senate, competed with students in a CPR race designed to help students’ rhythm. At one point she led the four students, but she eventually admitted that it would be better to let the students do the work.

“It was fun racing the paramedic students, but I will leave the lifesaving skills to them,” said Buckingham, who is an oculoplastic and reconstructive surgeon.

TSTC Emergency Medical Services instructor Richard Sharp led the tour and was happy that Buckingham got involved.

“For her to recognize the quality of the program we have says a lot about TSTC,” he said. “It was an honor to have the senator visit our campus.”

Gail Lawrence, TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief of staff to the chancellor, said that Buckingham’s visit shows the importance of the college to Texas.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome Sen. Buckingham to our Brownwood campus,” Lawrence said. “We’re grateful for her support and are thrilled that she understands the value of a technical education. After all, it’s our mission to provide the state with a high-quality workforce.”

Buckingham’s staff was also informed of TSTC’s involvement with the 3M Manufacturing and Academic Partnerships (MAP) program, which allows students to study for a career in manufacturing. The MAP partnership between TSTC, 3M and Brownwood Independent School District was unveiled in February. 

TSTC received a grant from the 3M Foundation to purchase MecLab Trainers that will be used in the program. Through the program, Brownwood High School students will have the chance to learn the basics of creating and using schematic designs, circuit diagrams and technical drawings; building models; creating simulations; and developing and constructing electronic and pneumatic circuits.

Buckingham, who was making her first visit to the Brownwood campus, was impressed with what she saw.

“This is a great and beautiful campus,” she said. “We love TSTC. It is so important for the kids to have this opportunity in our community. TSTC is a huge benefit to Brownwood.” 

For more information about TSTC, visit

Summer graduate returns to TSTC to expand learning

(ABILENE, Texas) – After earning a certificate in Diesel Equipment Technology from Texas State Technical College last summer, Alfred Rodriguez, of Knox City, wanted to continue his education this fall.

The 39-year-old is now pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in TSTC’s Industrial Systems program. He began classes in Abilene knowing that his oil field experience will help him.

“I figured working in the oil patch for 15 to 16 years that I needed to get an overall better understanding of machinery,” he said. “I have worked with a lot of equipment, but I know this will help me expand my knowledge.”

During his oil field career, Rodriguez worked on various equipment with different companies. Now he is studying electrical systems that he is familiar with and some he knew little about.

“I knew I would have to be knowledgeable in different things. For me, some of it is the basic stuff I have seen during my oil field career,” he said.

Rodriguez said the younger students may have an advantage over him in some areas, but his experience is guiding him in his pursuit of an associate degree.

“At first, I wanted to have some basic knowledge of how things work. That way if I wanted to build a building in my backyard, I would know how to wire things,” he said.

He admitted that he should have listened to his father after graduating from high school.

“My father told me that if I had applied myself then, it would not have been as difficult,” Rodriguez said. “That was another learning experience for me.”

Rodriguez said looking back, he should have pursued an associate degree in Diesel Equipment Technology. But he is happy that he completed the certificate program.

The classes did prove challenging for him.

“The last time I had to do math like that was in 2000 and 2001,” he said. “The instructors were good at walking you through the problems, and I was able to apply what I learned.”

Rodriguez even did some recruiting for TSTC.

“I got my wife turned on to the online Business Management Technology program, and she started this fall,” he said.

Rodriguez offered his wife some advice as she began her first semester.

“I warned her that there would be a lot of homework during the first semester and she would have to get used to it,” he said. 

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC Automotive Technology students use knowledge at home

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – With graduation looming for Texas State Technical College Automotive Technology students, two men are already putting their knowledge to work at home.

“I am using what I have learned by working on my girlfriend’s car,” said Keith Guffey, of Lubbock. “I have retained so much during my time in school. I have been on the honor roll each semester while working a full-time management job. I am proud of myself and think I have found my calling.”

Hunter Yearian, of Ballinger, said he helped his father work on cars at a young age. Now he is showing his father what he has learned at TSTC.

“Now I am working on my stuff. It is nice to see my dad think I did not know how to do something, but I can,” he said. “He is proud of what I can do.”

Both students credit TSTC instructor Mike Myers for their success in the program.

“His teaching aspect is great. He teaches us real-life situations and uses his stories to make sure we know what to do,” Guffey said.

Yearian said Myers’ teaching style is perfect for students who do not have knowledge of vehicles, as well as for those who do.

“He shows you how to do things. He asks us to look at the problem and try and figure things out,” he said. “We start looking at it differently and are then able to go in and fix it.”

Both students want to make careers as automobile mechanics.

Guffey said that ever since he was young, he has enjoyed working on vehicles.

“I just started working on my own and fell in love with the trade,” he said. “I want to complete the Dodge Ram program and become a master technician. Eventually I hope to retire and open my own shop.”

Yearian also wants to be a mechanic. He credits touring TSTC while he was in high school with leading him to a career.

“I was able to walk around the lab, and I liked what I saw,” he said of the Sweetwater facility. “I really enjoy the hands-on aspect of the course.”

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC student finds blessing from life-changing situation

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Ronald Jones, of Hamlin, was laid off in the spring. He took the advice of his wife and enrolled in Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology program.

“At that time it was hard for people to get a job. My wife said I should take the opportunity and pursue the welding program,” Jones said. “With that happening to me, I did not get down. I took it as a blessing in disguise.”

Attending TSTC is not new to Jones. After graduating from Hamlin High School in 2003, he attended and later graduated with a certificate in Automotive Collision and Management Technology from TSTC. When it was time to look for a welding program, Jones knew he wanted to return to the TSTC campus in Sweetwater.

He got his finances in order and, with his wife’s encouragement, began classes this fall. Jones said he has not decided if he wants to pursue a certificate or an associate degree, but he knows he will receive a good education.

“I was blessed that I did not have to use student loans to go to school,” he said. “I know TSTC will prepare me for a career.”

Despite being one of the oldest students in his class, Jones said the camaraderie is what he enjoys most during lab sessions.

“I enjoy coming in here and talking to these guys. I know they are younger than me, but it is good to just talk prior to starting our labs,” he said.

Jones has always found welding to be an interesting field. He admitted that his only prior welding experience was doing some stick welding during high school shop classes.

“I told my dad when I was young that I would like to be one of them,” he said of welders in his hometown. “From age 16 on, I had been thinking of pursuing this field.”

Over the last four years, he thought more about pursuing a welding job but knew he would need to learn more about it.

One of the hardest parts for him is learning to read blueprints and then welding to the specifications. Jones said over time he will learn to do it without thinking about it first.

With a goal of making welding a career, Jones is looking at West Texas opportunities.

“I was really surprised by the number of opportunities. I figured West Texas would be like a lot of the bigger cities, and it would be hard to find a job,” he said. “The jobs available out here are actually surprisingly good.”

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC Drafting and Design students learn more than building design

(ABILENE, Texas) – Students will be able to design more than buildings when they complete Texas State Technical College’s Drafting and Design program.

Instructor Justin Price said students will have the skills to work in different industries, including the oil and gas industry.

“Our graduates will be well rounded to go into the architectural field or any other field that involves design,” Price said.

One of those areas is the oil and natural gas industry in West Texas. Price said graduates could be employed by companies such as Chevron, Conoco or Kinder Morgan because of TSTC’s advanced pipe and basic pipe curriculum.

“Our graduates will not be specific to just drawing buildings. They will be able to hit the ground running in designing something once they start a job,” Price said.

Drafters will work to put their ideas into a drawing that will detail the size, shape, materials and other specifications needed in a project. Texas employs the second-most drafters in the nation, and Price said there is always a demand in the field.

The TSTC program is offered completely online, and Price said that has helped draw students looking to expand their resume.

“We have seen a steady incline in students in West Texas,” he said. “During this time of COVID-19, the oil and gas industry has been shutting down some of its rigs, so some people are moving to bigger companies.”

Because of the wide range of oil and gas equipment in West Texas, companies need to document where the equipment is located. That is where a drafter comes into the picture.

“Companies have to document so many pieces of equipment a year, and that takes drafters,” Price said. “They are out there documenting what is in the field. We will train our graduates to use various methods to complete that type of project.”

The West Texas program is available through the Abilene, Brownwood and Sweetwater campuses. Price said instructors have been working to move the program completely online for some time, and it was a smooth transition this fall.

“We were geared up to tackle any problems we might encounter so we could be ready to rock this fall,” he said. “Students can complete our program anywhere in the state.”

Students have the option to learn during live online sessions or prerecorded sessions. Price said instructors also use online video services to interact with students.

“We want to keep the students engaged during the program,” he said. 

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC student grateful for online Health Information program

(ABILENE, Texas) – Jamie Nowotny is taking advantage of Texas State Technical College’s online Health Information Technology program this fall.

The first-semester student said she wanted to pursue a certificate in the medical records field but did not have time to be in the classroom.

“The only way I would be able to attend school was to have the program completely online,” she said.

The reason Nowotny needed an online program was to balance her job as a certified nursing assistant and an activities director at Mesa Springs Healthcare Center in Abilene.

“I work full time, almost 80 hours a week at Mesa Springs,” she said. “I work during the day and come home and do my schoolwork.”

Nowotny said the instructors have made it easier for her to communicate with them, even though she is at work during the day.

“They are working with me and are quick to respond to any of my questions,” she said. “They are very understanding of my situation.”

She said today’s “new normal” makes it easier for students to adjust to online learning.

“I just think with this new normal that everyone wants to be safer,” she said. “There is so much unknown with COVID. We are learning new things daily with this pandemic and have to adjust.”

Nowotny said she wanted to learn about medical records because her husband will be retiring from the U.S. Air Force in the next few years. When he retires, they plan to move to San Antonio.

“I wanted to get my feet wet with health information technology before we move,” she said.

Nowotny, a native of Greenville, grew up in Arizona and is no stranger to working hard. She admitted that she wanted to go to college, but because of financial issues she could not immediately further her higher education.

When her husband was transferred to Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, she earned a CNA degree and was hired by Mesa Springs. It did not take long for the company to promote her to activities director. 

Nowotny knows that adding certification in health records to her resume will help advance her career.

“You could say I am a jack-of-all-trades,” she said. “Once I get the HIT certificate, it will help me expand my career further.”

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC instructors prepare for new EMT, paramedic students

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Texas State Technical College is preparing for the next group of emergency medical technician and paramedic students.

TSTC Emergency Medical Services instructor Richard Sharp said students who recently completed the program had a 100 percent passing rate on the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians certification exam, and each graduate found employment. This spring, a new group of students will begin their training.

“An entry-level EMT can expect to make $30,000 to $35,000 in their first year,” Sharp said. “An entry-level paramedic can expect to make in excess of $45,000 to $50,000 a year.”

The program is offered both online and with in-person lab sessions. Sharp said students will have opportunities for live discussions and lectures online each week.

“We have implemented all CDC guidelines when students are on campus to protect the student, their family and any patients they may encounter,” Sharp said of lab sessions.

The EMT certificate is a two-semester program. The first semester covers the core EMT courses that allow students to sit for National Registry certification. The second semester has two online courses, including medical terminology, anatomy and physiology.

A student must be certified as an EMT in Texas and be selected for the paramedic program, Sharp said.

“Once selected, the student will complete an additional three semesters of core classes and general education if attempting to earn an associate degree” he said. “At the completion of the didactic portion, the student will undergo one semester of capstone. The capstone semester places the student with a seasoned paramedic in an internship where the student will function as a paramedic. After successfully completing the internship, the student will be eligible to test for the National Registry paramedic certification.”

Sharp said the program is patient-centered, with a focus on providing competent EMTs and paramedics to the EMS industry in Texas.

Sharp is a 20-year veteran of 911 ambulance response as a paramedic. Timothy Scalley, a current paramedic/flight paramedic, is also an instructor in the program.

Sharp said students interested in the program may contact him at 325-203-2458 to learn about the enrollment process.

For more information, visit

Company upgrade leads Rowlette to TSTC program

(ABILENE, Texas) – Watching a multimillion dollar upgrade at his current workplace, Andrew Rowlette wanted to learn more about electrical systems.

The U.S. Air Force veteran works for Cargill Animal Nutrition in Abilene. He also started his fourth semester in Texas State Technical College’s Electrical Power and Controls program this fall.

“I was working for nine or 10 months, and the company decided to do a $2 million upgrade to the electrical system,” Rowlette said. “I was working with the contractor on some of the projects, and what he was doing sparked my interest.”

Rowlette did not have a background in electrical work, but a former co-worker and current TSTC instructor led him to the college.

TSTC Industrial Systems instructor Demetri Jones told him about the program and encouraged him to broaden his  knowledge.

“You really don’t realize how much electrical systems work in our daily lives,” Rowlette said. “I was really interested in that aspect of the program.”

Rowlette, who was a B-1 Bomber crew chief in the Air Force, said serving in the military helped him pay for college.

“I was able to get some free money and go to school to learn a new trade,” he said. “I took a year or so off before starting at TSTC.”

Rowlette said his employers are pleased that he is attending TSTC.

“It is helping me here, especially with some of the employees,” he said. “Some of them may not have the tech skills to solve a problem quickly. I can ask them if something is not working to look at another possible solution.”

Rowlette said he will continue to share what he learns at TSTC with his fellow employees.

“The best way to help someone is to pass on the knowledge,” he said.

TSTC offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Power and Controls at the Abilene, Fort Bend County, North Texas and Waco campuses.

For more information about TSTC, visit

Agility, fitness important for TSTC Wind Energy students

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Climbing a wind turbine is not as easy as it looks.

First-year students in Texas State Technical College’s Wind Energy Technology program are getting in shape for such climbs. Over the first two weeks of the semester, students had to stretch and prepare their bodies for the remainder of the program.

“We have stretched a lot to begin the program,” said Hunter Anglin, of Roscoe. “I started working out some before beginning school. I am happy I did that now.”

Anglin’s stepfather works for a crane company that is used by wind turbine crews in West Texas.

“He has taken me out there a few times in the past, and I was always fascinated by what I saw,” Anglin said.

He said the best advice his stepfather gave him was to go to college.

“He told me that I need to know what I am doing. He said it would be better to get a job knowing something than going in and not knowing anything,” Anglin said.

Evan Cheyne, of Jayton, said he is also preparing himself for future climbs. Knowing that he would need to be in shape was something he learned during a TSTC highlight day at Aspermont High School last spring.

The Wind Energy Technology department allowed students from Fisher, Kent and Stonewall counties to rappel down the mobile lab. It was part of a highlight day announcing the scholarship opportunity funded by California-based BayWa r.e. Wind.

“I talked to my counselors, and they told me about the scholarship. I was able to go down the tower, and I loved it,” he said. “If I did not get the scholarship, I probably would not be able to attend school.”

Cheyne said he liked how current TSTC students presented themselves in Aspermont. He added that was another reason why he chose to attend TSTC.

“Everyone has been quite accepting of the students. The third- and fourth-semester students have been helpful with anything we need,” he said.

Both students are looking forward to the program, knowing that at some point they will be able to climb turbines.

“I have to be in good shape to do that, so working out now is important,” Cheyne said.

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC students learn to use a robotic arm with Lincoln Logs

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Students in Texas State Technical College’s Electromechanical Technology program begin the day using an unusual combination: Lincoln Logs and a robotic arm.

During lab sessions, students practice moving a robotic arm through a log structure to drop a pin from its perch. The goal is to move the pin without knocking over any of the logs. It is one of the best ways for students to focus on the tasks ahead, said instructor Jeff Olney.

“I have always been interested in learning how machines work,” said Noah Grant, a first-year student from Snyder.

Grant focused intently as he maneuvered the robotic arm through the small opening to drop the pin, but he admitted that it took him time to get the hang of it.

“It was a little strange setting it up, but once you get in the groove, it is fun and exciting,” he said. “I wanted to stay after class and work on it some more.”

During the program, which is available at the Sweetwater campus exclusively, students will combine computers with control, electrical and mechanical systems that can be used to power machines in a variety of industries.

Kristopher Talamantes, a U.S. Air Force veteran from San Angelo, had some prior knowledge in the field. He was an electrician in the military before beginning classes at TSTC.

“I figured since I was out of the military, this would be the next step for me. It is in the same field I was working in, and this will help me expand my knowledge,” he said.

Talamantes toured TSTC in high school but opted for a career in the military. He knew that TSTC would be an option to further his education after his service.

“I was excited to come to school,” he said. “We started using the robotic arm on the first day. I was ready to come back to class and do it again.”

Talamantes said he looks forward to learning about all aspects of Electromechanical Technology.

“This is going to prepare me for working with the robot, as well as teaching me patience,” he said. “I am looking forward to learning how things work.”

As for choosing a career, students will have options after graduation. Grant said he would like to work in an electrical substation or a manufacturing plant.

“I think it would be pretty fun to design and sell machines,” he said.

For more information about TSTC, visit