How One Teacher is Changing mindsets, One Student at a Time, with STEM – Ep13

Teaching STEM in the Machine shop

When passion and purpose meet the world’s needs, great things happen.

Cesar Gutierrez is a teacher whose  purpose in life is changing not only his students’ lives, but changing his entire community through STEM.

Let’s face it: Many high school students are not exposed to potential careers that are available to them.  Sure, there may be a high school counselor or teacher who can tell them about career opportunities, but there is often no way to experience these careers firsthand.

Cesar Gutierrez is a teacher (CTE Facilitator) at Desert View High School in Tuscon, Arizona, who has a passion for STEM, and a passion to help his students succeed.  He has built an amazing program for his students who were previously unaware that they had so many opportunities in STEM.  He is also changing the mindset not only of his students, but their parents and their community.  Caser has an amazing story of how you can truly change lives by believing in his students and exposing them to more opportunities.

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I met Caser at SOLIDWORKS World this February and recorded this podcast with him.  It’s amazing what he has done in his community in such a short amount of time.  I hope you enjoy this very inspiring podcast.

Cesar Gutierrez and his students at SOLIDWORKS World 2019

If you are a teacher, a mentor, or want to help our youth with STEM or other ways to learn about technology, know that you have great resources with SOLIDWORKS Education solutions.  We have plenty of free offerings for students and entrepreneurs, so please visit our Education page at


Machine-Generated Transcript:

Cesar Gutierrez 0:00
The kids, they were ready to go, you can see that they’re hungry for knowledge. They wanted technology, they were just hungry for the opportunity. And once they got the opportunity just took off. And now it’s hard to stop right now we have students to stay after school, usually to about 630 at night so they dictate basically the hours that I work or students already telling me Hey, so what hours are we coming in over the summer? What certifications can we get over the summer?

Cliff Medling 0:26
Hi there. This is the solid works born to design podcast, a collection of inspiring stories about those who create, build, invent an engineer new ideas and the actual new products and by the way, they all use solid works. I’m your host Cliff Medling, and this episode is titled How one teacher is changing mindsets. One student at a time with STEM. I’m talking to Cesar Gutierrez, a teacher who is literally changing the futures of his students lives every single day Cesar is changing the mindset of his community as well by showing underprivileged students a future that could not have imagined possible. It’s almost unbelievable what Cesar has done in his community for his students, and just seven years let’s jump right into his story.

Cesar Gutierrez 1:08
My name is Cesar Gutierrez I teach drafting and design and precision manufacturing desert View High School, Tucson, Arizona.

Cliff Medling 1:16So you were here at Solidworks world you brought how many students here this year?

Cesar Gutierrez 1:19
48 students. I brought 24 gentlemen and 24 ladies this year.

Cliff Medling 1:23
That’s great. And this is this is something you’ve done for how many years now?

Cesar Gutierrez 1:26
This is our 14th year here.

How do you show STEM students they can have a career with SOLIDWORKS?

Cliff Medling 1:28
Let’s talk about those students and where you’re from and how you’ve tried to identify different opportunities for them.

Cesar Gutierrez 1:50
So we come from Tucson, Arizona, in the area where we’re at, and the south side of Tucson, it’s it’s a little bit more than high poverty area. But with a collaborative effort, basically of industry or in our district and the federal government. We started creating this program seven years ago to try to change the community and also to start at least putting a little dent into the huge bridge of the gap of the technical trades right now.

Cliff Medling 2:03

So you wanted to show them there was other opportunities to make money?

Cesar Gutierrez 2:07
Yes. So one of the things that we did is we partner, we have 42 partners in the sand program. Southen Arizona manufacturing partners. So one of the things that we did having the huge machine shop that we have, we have about 12, C and C’s and our students basically go with me to the business meetings to some of these organizations, and we end up cutting parts for them. So we’re actually running a small business inside our school, we end up taking orders, we go cut our orders, the industry at our club gets paid as well as our students.

So they get an hourly wage to the different entities of internship. So they get on the job training, we cut parts program gets money, and that’s the way we try to fund the trips.

Cliff Medling 2:49
And tell me you were just telling me how it got started, how many students you started with and how many students you have now and how the program is grown.

Cesar Gutierrez 2:55
So when we started the program seven years ago, I think we had a total of roughly about 20 students. Within the first year, we’re about 97. Right now, we average about 278 students a year.

Cliff Medling 3:08

Cesar Gutierrez 3:08
We’re the largest program in the country. We just got our numbers in for next year. And right now we’re looking at about 150 new students coming into the program, which is going to be the largest number that we’ve, we actually have freshmen coming in

Cliff Medling 3:21

Cesar Gutierrez 3:21
into drafting.

What inspired you to teach STEM?

Cliff Medling 3:22
That’s incredible. So So here’s the real question, What made you decide to do this? Why did you want to take this on and for these kids?

Cesar Gutierrez 3:29
I just always thought that, I don’t know. It’s something else driven by somebody else upstairs. And this was just my path. I mean, one of the things I got tired of seeing my students at McDonald’s and construction site, tile installers, and there had to be more for students, they have more, they should have more opportunities. They’re smarter than this. They’re brighter than just there. They have a lot of capabilities. And when we started the program, that’s exactly what we found. We started seeing students change. We saw huge growth within the first three years. The conversations happening in the classrooms where at the beginning is exactly we’re trying to earn money the legal way to where now us you hear these kids speak and they’re talking about what university what field of engineering they want to go into.

They want to go into manufacturing, what company they want to go into was at Raytheon, industrial tool and die high tech. They’re just right now those conversations are happening on a daily basis, and exactly how much they’re really worth.

Cliff Medling 4:27
That’s great, because you obviously didn’t hear the seven years ago, right?

Cesar Gutierrez 4:30
No, no, not at all. Seven years ago, all we heard about is about the guy that’s in jail right now. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s not the guy that we wanted to talk about.

Cliff Medling 4:39
Well, but obviously, you were onto something, you knew that there was over the opportunity and just seven years, you’ve been able to, to see a difference in these in these kids.

Cesar Gutierrez 4:48
I mean, none of this little bit of impossible if we didn’t have the support from the district, from the government and industry getting together. They’re the ones that put the foundation down. What we did is we just added the fuel, and the kids they were ready to go, you can see that they’re hungry for knowledge, they want the technology, they were just hungry for the opportunity. And once they got the opportunity just took off.

And now it’s hard to stop right now we have students to stay after school, usually to about 630 at night. So they dictate basically the hours that I work, where usually I would have teachers would have to beg students to stay over the summer, or students are already telling me Hey, so what hours are we coming in over the summer? What certifications can we get over the summer? which parts are we going to cut? Who who would we have to go talk to? And now it’s no longer a teacher driven program. It’s a student driven program.

Cliff Medling 5:36
That’s incredible. That really is incredible. So so we were talking earlier how you’ve kind of changed not just the students but you’ve changed the environment in that area, the education how the colleges are expecting these kids now so so talk more about that.

How has your STEM program changed the local environment?

Cesar Gutierrez 5:49
So we probably became a great headache for our community college. Pima Community College

Cliff Medling 5:54
A good headache haha

Cesar Gutierrez 5:55
A great headache. We took their enrollment probably for less than Say one class to now four classes of the same on the same area. So if they only had one manual class with 10 students, now they have about four or five running at the same time. And they’ve had to actually expand their shops bring in more technology because of the technology that was brought into the high schools.

We have everything from hazed machines, dmg, Maury machines, 3d printers, huge labs for solidworks. When we we have we run 60 students a period through solidworks in our area. So when that happened, Community College had to change. Then we had the university down in Flagstaff, and a US started paying attention to what these kids are doing. We would take field trips over there, and now that you’re getting invited to these place, and now we’re getting college recruiters.

And so it’s great when you get emails from like, na us saying, Hey, can you go ahead and have your kids go to these links, these are all the scholarship so that we can offer them.

What is the background of your STEM students?

Cliff Medling 6:50
That’s amazing. I mean, you’re changing the environment down there. And just seven years, it’s pretty, pretty impressive. Let’s say Caesar straight work. So so let’s just talk the background of the students, you know the area. Can you talk more about where they come from now?

Cesar Gutierrez 7:04
Well, most of our areas, both parents have to work to sustain the households. I mean, minimum wage jobs. We have about 92% Hispanic students. I think we’re about 92. I don’t I really don’t know all the data, but we’re in the 90 percentile for free and reduced lunch title one school. So in the area where we’re at. I mean, I could tell you stories about, like, say, students that have graduated the program got into industry and within six months and making $18 an hour, and they’re coming back home, and again, like this story, one of the parents one of the dads was mad at the fact that the student his son was making more money than he was even though he had 15 years experience.

Cliff Medling 7:46

Cesar Gutierrez 7:47
And he only had six. So the kids are not helping, not the parents, they actually moved to a bigger home, one with a swimming pool. I mean, stories like that, like, makes everything worthwhile.

Cliff Medling 7:58
Yeah, absolutely. So you’re opening their eyes. and they’re seeing these other students graduate and open their eyes to new opportunities. That’s that’s not that’s within reach within their reach. Yeah.

Cesar Gutierrez 8:07
And then there’s now we’re starting to have a, we had a couple of companies come in from out of the country, one from Australia, and I can’t remember the other one. But they’re now starting to look at Tucson because of the features that we have, because of the students that we have. Because the two programs are in Tucson at the high school level and the community college. Raytheon’s extreme is really involved in what we’re doing now. So I mean, you’re looking at where it’s funny that I’m sorry, but I’ll say like,

Cliff Medling 8:34
No, no, you go into as much detail this is all this all fascinating to me. So

Cesar Gutierrez 8:38
I went up to one of the parents, one of the moms one day and it’s like, just want you to know that, you know, your son would make probably a great mechanical engineer, and the latest like, well, I don’t want my son underneath the hood. He’s not made to be a mechanic and I’m like, yeah, that’s not what it’s about. So I think all teachers would love to have this problem, right. So we have parent meetings, and we have one parent meeting, you have 120 parents in the classroom.

Cliff Medling 9:00

Cesar Gutierrez 9:01
And all of them are now listening there now I’m just trying to understand we have dual credit aligned they’re almost had get there as certificate in college right out of the high school we’re only one class short from their certificate that same mom her son is going to be the first engineer graduate. It’s awesome to see the Ferris is just because now the parents are all excited about their kids and they understand that the future is not what like I wouldn’t want never want to be what my dad was even though I totally respect and love my dad but I would never want to be a minor. And so now the kids are looking yeah with their respect and love their parents they just don’t want to do with their parents do. They want to become something better and I think that all parents want that for their children.

Why is it important for Students to go to SOLIDWORKS World?

Cliff Medling 9:41
Right right absolutely. I my goal is to do a little bit better my dad but I definitely my children to do better than me right that’s that’s usually the goal. Right? Exactly. So you raise money for all the students so they can come to Solidworks World And why is that? Why is it important for the for them to come here?

Cesar Gutierrez 9:55
It’s extremely important for them to be able to see the opportunities and the new vendors brush album. With all these new industries, this opportunity right here is life changing for our students, them coming into the pavilion and seeing the different organizations and industries that are represented here. Just opens their eyes and actually directs them in different pathways to a different career.

You raise money and every way you can to get these kids here and take buses, planes, whatever it takes to get here, what what is their experience when they get to Solidworks world?

It’s the vibe the energy that we that the kids have after we get back to school, they treat this as this is it right here. This is the trip they already started planning for next year’s trip and we’re just we just got here this year. They’re already looking at, okay, where is it going to be? What are we going to do? How many students do you want to take? They’re already trying to get let’s see how much money they’re going to need to try to get there. So when we go back, we’re going to sit unites and then it’s a lot some we get a lot of support from a grant that we have and it’ll be done this year. And we also got a lot of support from our district and our school but the kids are already excited about the following year.

And when you go back it’s like this epidemic they go back and they tell every single person that that school what their experiences were at here and there’s no other conference they don’t want to go to any conference they just want to come Solidworks World that’s it there they don’t they know that they’re going to go to any you and then they know they’re going to go to a couple of universities, but that’s okay. They want to come here. Where regardless of where it’s at, this is a place they want to be every year.

Cliff Medling 11:25
That’s just like minded people in the design field. Yeah, exactly. I know I remember going to my eighth grade washington dc trip you know, it was a very excited about that. So which which Solidworks world was around when I was in eighth grade? I think it’d be in high school it would be more interesting.

Cesar Gutierrez 11:39
So they get like really excited for that first email that we get. They get it right around August and it’s like Oh, is it is it is like No, not yet. This year. As soon as we got it, it’s like hey, look at this is like so where they’re like Yes. All right, let’s go and so they started.

Cliff Medling 11:55
Thats great.

Cesar Gutierrez 11:55
So this year, they they came close to raising about 18,000 dollars on their own, so

Cliff Medling 11:57
$18,000 on their own. That’s That’s excellent.

Cesar Gutierrez 12:03
And we don’t ask parents for any money. That’s the one rule that we’ve had for seven years at the school we don’t ask parents for a dime the number one thing we want to do is we want to have these students be responsible for everything they do the buy in is that you just have to raise your own money and it’s not going out and asking grandpa or grandma for tax credit No, that’s you have to come in and you got to put in your time in the shop you have to come out and do your project and deliver to industry and and that’s what we’re that’s what we exactly what we want.

We want to give them work ethic, want to be able to, for them to have great communication skills, be able to talk to other adults talk amongst themselves problem solve within their world. And I mean, we’ve messed up parts last year, we messed up about $7,000 but the parts because we did took the wrong measurement. And the great thing is I went first to the end to the company and said, Hey, we must these parts. So So I took the yell at. Yeah, Im the one who got yelled at but the students made our group on their own, and they asked for a ride and I give them a right to the company and they sit down with the owner and said, Hey, we messed up. These are the things that we’re implementing to the for that not never to happen again in our class.

Cliff Medling 13:10

Cesar Gutierrez 13:11
And they didn’t they presented and they got the contract back.

Cliff Medling 13:14
That’s impressive.

Cesar Gutierrez 13:15
It didnt have to come from me.

What kinds of projects are your STEM students working on?

Cliff Medling 13:17
Right. Right. But you know, you’re obviously not just changing their skills, you’re changing their their attitudes about work in business. And that’s, that’s impressive. Yeah. I haven’t actually met your students yet. But I’ve heard wonderful things about them. So I just there was something you mentioned earlier, I wanted to capture that you said that they were they were like one of them is building a drones are doing 3d printing. And then they were they were moving on to building more and building parts.

Cesar Gutierrez 13:39
So we have to right now we have to ninth graders working on the drone and he’s already all done. So we have a of Mark forge 3d printer there at the school that does aluminum and carbon fiber composite part. So basically what they’re gonna do is they’re going to go out there 3d printing that part right there and they’re going to make the drone fly.

Then they’ll take the entire design that they have the going to the engineering class that we have. And so the kids will put in all the electronics, put the RC is in it, and they’ll make it fly. So that’s one of the ways that we have two classes collaborating with one, I said, Make that fly, then they’ll be going. And so we had to figure out what the skill sets they needed in order for them to be able to build these part. So we have other students now, taking a couple of course works. And basically I do take them through surfacing 4 million surfaces to surface on the mill to program and so basically, they’ll mail all the parts for them.

And then they’ll put all the drone together. And it’s just they’re kind of they want to do it just because they can right now, you know, it’s something that is exciting. Here’s another project that they’re working on right now. A gentleman from just just out from industry came up to him and they they’re interested in the kids converting a regular gas engine car to electric motor and for the kids to get on. I kind of think that that’s more like a college program.

Cliff Medling 15:00
Yeah, it’s I couldn’t figure that out. for Sure.

Cesar Gutierrez 15:02
So they started doing the research. They own the gentleman 20 page report, they have to do all the pros and cons of what motors that they want. The gentleman will pick the motors will pick all the parts, and then he’s gonna bring the car and we’re gonna start working on that thing. So

Cliff Medling 15:15
Wow, that is impressive. That is something. How did Solidworks. help you get started with this?

How does SOLIDWORKS certification help your students?

Cesar Gutierrez 15:20
Solidworks is for us is the foundation of our entire program. It’s our recruiting tool. It’s It’s everything. I mean, the kids are learning to design, they get to see something in 3d. So we use Solidworks for everything that develops the basis for this. They go through two years of Solidworks. They try to get all the way to the expert next year.

Cliff Medling 15:39
Oh, so so the certification? Yeah, you mentioned that, yeah. They actually come here at world and do the certification, right.

Cesar Gutierrez 15:44
They’ll do all the certification testing. So from there, the kids are now going into the machine shop with a lot of knowledge. We just don’t have another program that can do that for us. So once the kids get addicted to the Solidworks part, the rest of the stuff is easy.

Cliff Medling 15:56
So that’s great. You mentioned the one story about somebody wasn’t going to take this certification. I like that.

Cesar Gutierrez 16:03
Oh haha So we have Well, this goes back to the same conversations that how everything’s changed in our and the culture at our school has changed. So in our classroom, we have about 30%. Now, all female students, which is a huge number when it comes to drafting and CT and career and technical education, especially in this field.

One of our students was saying that he wasn’t going to take this test. And the female citizens like, Hey, thank you, I do want your job. It’s like so I’m taking the CSWP because I already have my see CSWA I’m gonna get my professional and I’m gonna get my second professional while you’re only going to have all that right nothing. And my resume look at my resume is going to be looking at what I’m going to be worth and look at what you’re going to be worth. So thank you. You’re gonna look at me before they look at you.

And so that’s exactly the mind frame that we wanted these kids to have. It’s that whole worth and Exactly. The certification between Solidworks names, all the certifications that the game proves that they have the knowledge and they actually have the know how to go ahead and do this a lot. The companies that hire drafting students are the same thing. They look at the certifications for that same reason. It’s it shows that they can actually master certain certain things.

Cliff Medling 17:13
Right? That’s, that’s great. It’s great. It’s nice to see them pushing each other, you know, not just you, but they’re pushing each other to do their best and to take the higher level certifications. That’s excellent.

Cesar Gutierrez 17:22
They’re the best advocates for anything that I have. I mean, anything that the program has, because this doesn’t have anything to do with with me, it’s it’s a collaborative effort. But now the students of just taking taking the hold of this program taken ahold of everything and now I think the biggest change that they’ve done is that every year every, every year that the one class leaves, they have to leave something behind or they have to make the program better somehow. And every year they’re leaving something behind our first years probably left certifications, then it followed by getting industry contracts this year is like we have our governor from Arizona just coming to see their program. So

Cliff Medling 18:04
Thats great.

Cesar Gutierrez 18:04
You know, they’re getting a lot of the attention but the thing is, is that they like that because they’re pushing for it. They deserve that.

Cliff Medling 18:11
They do deserve it. Yeah. This is this is outstanding what you’re doing Cesar really is it you should be very proud of what you’re doing with these students. I mean, this this is excellent. I hope somebody out there listens to this podcast and and tries to replicate the same thing and their area. This is what America needs and other places need. It’s great to see what you’ve done it and it’s extremely impressive that it’s only taken you seven years, you already have an enormous success. So I look forward to seeing all the kids here Solidworks world and more and more every year. So thanks again for your time.

Cesar Gutierrez 18:40
I would like to thanks Solidworks, I really want to thank them for our first for accepting our first invite. 14 years ago, we actually sent out the first email one of my students found it and it’s like we got to go to this place. It’s like Okay, let’s go and we haven’t stopped coming ever since. And it was something that I remember my first two years coming here that was a legal issue with them giving us certifications. But it’s awesome. Because that means that you know, people are actually working together and things are changing. So I mean, that just proves that things can be done by these kids. So it was it was awesome. And we’re really thank you know, we do thank Solidworks for allowing us to keep coming back.

Cliff Medling 19:19
Oh, I don’t think you’ll I don’t think we’ll ever be against that. It’s always great to see students here at Solidworks World, I mean, there’s so many interesting new technologies that we see every year but I love seeing the students and it’s actually talking to an 18 year old girl today that’s kind of built her own robotics program. She’s helping out other people. It’s just It’s amazing. It’s good to it’s good to hang around with young people to keep they keep you keep you young and energize. You know, they got so much energy we just have to which had to point them in the right direction. Right. So guys like you so well. Excellent. Thank you again, this is excellent stuff.

Thanks for listening today. And remember, if you are a mentor and educator, I want to help youth with STEM or in other ways as Cesar has, know that you have a great resource with solid works education solutions we have plenty of free offerings for students and teachers so please visit our education page at

We will be back again soon with more great born design podcast stories at solid works com slash podcast or wherever podcasts are readily available. Until then, keep on innovating. Now I really hope that you have heard today has inspired you If you enjoyed it, head on over to iTunes search for the Born To Design Podcast and please leave a five star review so that this podcast will be recommended to more people helping us expand that born design community. Thank you

Transcribed by

Cliff Medling

Cliff Medling is a Senior Marketing Manager at SolidWorks and the host for the Born to Design Podcast.