Mechanical engineering student working on a small engine.

Adrian Campos always knew he wanted to be an engineer when he grew up.

“Ever since I was little, I would tinker and break toys apart,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do mechanical engineering. I want to get into the automotive industry, and my ultimate goal is to get into the performance aspect of vehicles.”

When Angelo State announced its mechanical engineering program in 2019, Adrian was sold, and he joined the Ram Family that fall.

“I knew with there being a smaller number of students, and it being a newer program, there would be more opportunities,” he said.

Mechanical engineering student working on a small engine.

In spring 2021, an opportunity opened up for Adrian to be ASU’s first mechanical engineering major to do a co-op, which gives a student full-time job experience in their field during an academic semester. He got a first-hand look inside the automotive industry by participating in the Paint Production Materials Engineering Co-Op with Toyota in Kentucky.

Adrian’s first opportunity with Toyota led to another that summer - the Facilities Maintenance Engineering Co-Op in California.

Mechanical engineer student wearing protective gear working at a Toyota plant.

“Facilities maintenance is making sure the plant stays running,” he said. “We have that even here at ASU - making sure the AC and electricity are working - and that’s what I did at a small, 30-acre Toyota plant.”

A highlight of the second co-op was being able to directly apply the knowledge he gained in one of his engineering classes.

“I had Dr. Dick Apronti for my engineering graphics class, and he showed me the beginning steps of Solidworks, which is an engineering design program,” Adrian explained. “Off that foundation, I was able to use it in California and grow in my Solidworks experience.”

Two students studying with papers and tablets on a table.

Participating in the out-of-state co-ops also represented a huge leap of faith for the San Angelo native.

“It was a big step because I was leaving home, and the engineering department had never had a co-op,” Adrian said. “I was seriously debating not taking the opportunity despite it being offered to me.”

“Even though it delays graduation a bit, it’s still worth it to be able to get that insight.”

“It meant I would delay my graduation, lose my job and leave everyone I know for a full semester,” he continued. “It was scary, but a great experience. Even though it delays graduation a bit, it’s still worth it to be able to get that insight.”

Since these were the first co-ops for the David L. Hirschfeld Department of Engineering, there were some logistics to work out. Adrian had help and encouragement from Dr. William Kitch, the department chair.

“Dr. Kitch was able to talk with the scholarship office,” he said. “From the school’s perspective, it looked like a dropped semester, which would’ve made me ineligible for my scholarship. Dr. Kitch helped me maintain my scholarship, and I was able to put it on pause until I returned.”

Professor smiling at a student while pointing at something.

With his ultimate goal being to enter into the performance and racing aspects of vehicles, Adrian’s time with Toyota may be far from over.

“Within Toyota, I want to get to TRD (Toyota Racing Development), which is their racing and development division,” he said. “Engineers design and manufacture the cars and are in charge of the processes of improving engine performance, suspension and more. I’m hoping to get an interview with Toyota soon.”

“Plus, I have people who have offered me their numbers,” he added, “and I can call and maintain those connections with professional engineers.”

Despite his initial hesitation, participating in the Toyota co-ops has reaffirmed Adrian’s decision to choose mechanical engineering at Angelo State.

“Here at ASU, the connections you can make with your professors and fellow students are unmatched,” he said. “To have the head of the department be excited for me, and talk to me and help me, was great overall and made me really appreciate that I came to ASU.”

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