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The University of Alabama

Find Your Passion: Inventions Spark Curious Camacho

By Katy Echols

This UA junior alternates studies with Cooperative Education (Mathew Wood).

This UA junior alternates studies with Cooperative Education (Mathew Wood).

Growing up, Nestor Camacho was enveloped in a world of mechanics he was curious to explore. That curiosity is leading to a career, but, along the way, he hopes to inspire the next generation.

“My knowledge gets me where I want to go,” says Camacho, a junior studying mechanical engineering at The University of Alabama. “I take pride in what I do because I know that I am helping to make things better in this world.”

As a child in Puerto Rico, Camacho’s father designed radiators and cooling systems, and his uncle owned a few car shops, so Camacho was constantly surrounded by tools, random parts and machines. This environment sparked his curiosity for how things worked.

“I was always in trouble with my parents because I was constantly taking everything I could get my hands on apart. I would just stare at all the internals, curious to see how everything functioned,” he says.

At age 7, Camacho’s family moved to Orlando, Fla., where he began fixing cars with his dad. His passion for mechanical workings led to an interest in robotics.

“Robots were always my biggest interest as a kid because they were the only things I knew that were far more complex than anything I had ever messed with,” he says.

Camacho began working with robots in high school when he helped found a robotics team — the first in his county — at Lyman High School. Given his background with mechanics, Camacho was appointed captain for the team and saw the team grow as it progressed in competitions.

“Every game was different, and every game more challenging. The challenges pushed us harder and harder, forcing us to improve our ideas and our designs,” Camacho says.

His senior year, the team competed in an international robotics competition, placing 27th out of nearly 4,000 teams worldwide, one of the most influential moments in choosing his career.

“It opened my eyes to what I really wanted to do and what was possible,” Camacho says.

From that moment on, Camacho decided to stay involved with robotics in any way possible — whether as a trainee, a competitor or a mentor.

While at the Capstone, Camacho alternates study with semesters off-campus working with PCC Airfoils in Douglas, Ga., through UA’s Cooperative Education and Professional Practice Program, or Co-op. With the encouragement and support of the team at PCC Airfoils, Camacho began collaborating with the robotics team at the nearby Coffee County High School. Though he is the mentor, Camacho says he has gained valuable knowledge and experience while working with the students.

Camacho, shown here in front of UA’s Hardaway Hall, mentors a high-school robotics team (Mathew Wood).

Camacho, shown here in front of UA’s Hardaway Hall, mentors a high-school robotics team (Mathew Wood).

“I push them to think outside the box and create something unique,” Camacho says. “I give them encouragement and tips on their ideas, but I never simply hand them the solution. They have to learn for themselves.”

The team earned a spot in the VEX Robotics World Championship in Anaheim, Calif., among more than 400 robotics teams, a first for a team from Coffee County High School, says Rodney Ragsdale, CCHS teacher and a team sponsor.

“Nestor was a large part of our success,” Ragsdale says. “He could relate to the students’ excitement of competing on the world level, and his understanding of mechanical engineering was a tremendous asset.”

Aside from mentoring on the concepts of robotics, Camacho says he also strives to instill other basic concepts applicable to mechanics, such as simplicity, consistency and organization. In the long term, Camacho says he hopes to aid in establishing a well-recognized robotics program at the school.

“The better programs we create, the better abilities the students will learn,” Camacho says.

He says he believes that with support and a strong education, these hardworking students will be inspired to continue working in mechanics. Such backing was Camacho’s inspiration for pursuing mechanical engineering.

“It is such a motivating major,” Camacho says.  “I love taking a random problem and thinking outside the box to figure it out.”

The potential to create objects, machines or equipment that can improve someone’s life, even in a small way, pushes Camacho to work hard, he says.

“Everything I create is a learning experience every time,” he says.

Camacho’s co-operative education with PCC Airfoils has given him ample opportunity, he says, to learn and flex his creative muscles.

“This experience is showing me what I love about the field and what I want to pursue after graduation,” Camacho says.

He says he hopes to continue his education and attain a master’s degree to make his family proud.

“I want to continue doing what I do best: inventing,” he says.

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Katy Echols graduated from The University of Alabama in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. She is from The Woodlands, Texas, and served as a student writer for the College of Engineering.

This story is part of the Find Your Passion series. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.

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