Automotive Technology Department Open House

November 5, 2018

Public Information Officer


The hub of college level automotive education in San Antonio is hosting its Multicampus Automotive Technology Department Open House for anyone who wants to enroll in the programs that have alumni prospering and keeping all safe inside the full spectrum of the industry on Nov. 8 at St. Philip’s College's 1801 Martin Luther King Drive location.

The traditional and popular Automotive Technology Department Open House program at the college features lots of high-speed, smoking cars---and high-speed electric vehicles from time to time as well. For many it’s the last or only free chance to connect with their career passion until autos are once again the center of their lives at the college’s highly anticipated CultureFest Open House that usually takes place in April.

Teachers, counselors, and students of every local high school that produces automotive technology alumni for college-level training and the industry practicum and employment that follows visit all the Automotive Technology classrooms and speak with the automotive instructors about their respective subject matter expertise. Some of the college’s students are returning from an industry event in Las Vegas last week, along with award-winning faculty, and all should be on hand to talk about their rise in the industry with the guests who are their eventual professional successors and colleagues.

The program’s students are considered “go-getters” in work ethic. One 2018 alumnus spent a year keeping it triply real knowing he received his college degree a few days before he received his high school diploma, particularly because he received one of his college credentials in automotive technology full year before finishing both college and high school. Like many of the students at the event, early college high school and college auto technology alumnus Stephen Cruz became one of the members of the first May 2018 graduating class of the St. Philip's College Early College High School with San Antonio Independent School District.

His reminiscences offer both parents and prospective students a look into the thoughts of modern day auto technology students of various maturities. Beyond the air bag popping and dyno revving, the serious side of the job that ensures all are safe is that the St. Philip's College automotive technology program was a finalist in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Texas Higher Education Star Award program for 2017, and its best practices have since been shared in the permanent record that corporate business leaders use as a resource on how education is contributing toward achieving goals in Texas' long-range strategic plan to remain globally competitive. Automotive technology at St. Philip’s College is a serious business, of wide interest.

"I was really scared. It was a scary thought to be on an actual college campus being able to get your associate or certificate. Fast forward, it became reality," the 2014 alumnus of Rhodes Middle School said a few days after receiving his brake and front end specialist certificate of completion while attending a graduation ceremony held by the college back in May of 2017.

"The first cohort of a program this spectacular has its own set of nerves. Coming in as a freshman, the first semester was not that difficult. The second semester---with college classes---was kind of a big difference. It was all-day on Friday. Being in a college class was something not even normal college students feel---you are in the college lab half a day and you are in a college lecture room half day. That’s a big gap. The next semester we were college students. You are so much younger and more inexperienced, but you have to be on the same level as them to a certain extent. You have the majority but not all of their freedoms. You know you are different because there are guidelines you have to follow that they don’t," Cruz said. 

"When we first came for the orientation to college, there were three options, liberal arts, and associate of science in cybersecurity and auto technology," Cruz recalled. "They took us to the classrooms, we eventually got more choices and pathways, but just walking into the lab, the smell and feel of it... this is something I want to do is what I said to myself. I was intrigued about cars, keeping them running. I was tempted to go into cybersecurity, but it was a complete change of mind to commit to automotive, with multiple chances to change that day through registration. I never changed my answer. Remembering that experience, it was so lifelike and real, that once in a lifetime feeling. The first day of class was hectic with safety glasses and books. As soon as we sat down with the professor, I knew it was completely different from a high school class, not abiding by the high school rules. There was more freedom, in a lab completely bigger than any regular classroom. The way a professor talks to you is more like a peer and an equal instead of a teacher-to-student. Ever since that first class, I have never regretted being an automotive student," said Cruz. 

"The college held an auto car show during the CultureFest the first year, and the professor who ran it was my teacher in my second semester in a college class," Cruz further recalled. "We volunteered to be part of it, a different experience, where we immediately went into a mind-blowing experience about what we could do. CultureFest was an amazing thing to volunteer for," Cruz said. 

College automotive technology alumnus and faculty member Sean Smith taught Cruz and other SAISD students at the college level, and will welcome their successors during the Nov. 8 event that he has expanded to two campuses in San Antonio. 

“Stephen joined the Army and he left this summer with his associate’s degree,” Smith said. “An amazing student, kind of quiet and reserved, possibly scared at first. He blossomed into a go-getter who wants to do it all. I think he’s become a fleet mechanic in the Army. He emerged as a leader of dual credit students in the program. Really stepped it up. Everything we ever did for outreach or team building as a department that season, that group of students volunteered for, and I think it was because of him. It’s amazing,” said Smith. 

At 1801 Martin Luther King Drive, the experts demonstrate equipment that includes air bag deployment and other ultra high-speed, ultra high-power displays. Current distinguished St. Philip's College Automotive Technology students will conduct campus tours beginning at 9:45 a.m. and running every 10 minutes to critical parts of the automotive campus---the new Welcome Enrollment Center, Center for Health Professions and library known as the Center for Learning Resources where a bevy of digital auto manuals are accessed.

This is an event of many moving parts, both human and mechanical, Smith explained.

Cars of interest will be on display in front of the Applied Science Building. The display offers college students an opportunity to speak informally with visiting students and guests. Organizers announced they expect many exotic cars, at least three dyno pull and air bag deployment demos that guests should keep an eye out for throughout the day.

“The dyno is the training aid we use to help students measure horsepower and torque to the wheels... a measurement of how much power a vehicle can generate and how fast it can go,” said Smith. “It’s more of a diagnostic tool that all allows us to simulate driving down the road. It’s not too safe to diagnose a misfiring car at 55 miles per hour, so we put the car under a 50 mile per hour load and we can performing tuning, performance tests, upgrades… That’s its primary training aid use right now. It’s a working training aid used every semester,” Smith said.

There’s more to the allure of the dyno to potential college-level auto technicians than meets the ear and eye, Smith shared.

“I think the biggest thing is we put cool cars up there. They look cool and make a whole bunch of noise---cool car and big noisemaker---that attracts people in a hurry. Noise equals power in the consumer's perception. People want to see this,” said Smith. 

“As for the air bags--the air bags are loud and look cool,” said Smith. “They are a dangerous thing; they engage and come out in milliseconds. Each demonstration is a demonstration of how dangerous they can be---but they are a lifesaving tool, in conjunction with seat belts of course. There’s a preventive education element there at the same time whenever we demonstrate that, absolutely. People come away believing,” said Smith. 

For details, the college contact is Shaun Smith at

About the automotive technology program at St. Philip’s College: Established in 1957 under the leadership of Saint and St. Philip’s College President Emeritus Artemisia Bowden, St. Philip’s College operates the area’s oldest college level automotive technology program and is also a regional training center for incumbent technicians from such automakers as General Motors and Ford Motor Company. Automotive technology is one of the college's top 10 most popular degree programs, helping students master the skills to service modern vehicles. The St. Philip's College automotive technology program was a finalist in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Texas Higher Education Star Award program for 2017, and its best practices are shared in the permanent record that corporate business leaders use as a resource on how education is contributing toward achieving goals in Texas' long-range strategic plan to remain globally competitive. Enrollment details on the automotive technology program at SPC are available online or from department chair Shaun Smith at