Steve Castillo named Engineer of the Year

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Steve Castillo enjoys giving back.

Castillo, an engineer at Sandia Labs, has worked on projects that residents should be grateful for all year round.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: Steve Castillo, right, was named the Engineer of the Year at the Great Minds in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics annual conference in Orlando, Fla., in October. He’s pictured with his wife, Erin.

He has fixed auto part glitches and has helped enhance radar systems to protect troops overseas.

Castillo was given the 2012 Engineer of the Year Award from the Great Minds in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for his work in improving the safety of troops overseas. The organization showcases professionals each year at its annual conference.

“It excites me that what I do saves the lives of our troops,” Castillo said.

Castillo, 53, a Los Chavez native, graduated from Belen High School in 1977 and developed an interest in engineering after his high school math and science teachers “piqued his interest.”

The oldest of six, Castillo learned about hard work hauling hay and alfalfa on his parents’ small farm.

But it was the work of his father, Philip, who was an electrical engineer, that persuaded him that fixing people’s problems was the right thing to do for the long haul.

“Of his six children, he convinced one to be an engineer,” Castillo said.

The Peralta resident holds a bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University and a master’s and doctorate degree from the University of Illinois.

For 22 years, Castillo was an assistant professor at NMSU, and in 2004, he became the dean of the New Mexico State College of Engineering.

But one thing remained constant during his stint in engineering — helping people.

In one instance, he helped a military group with its computer system. He said he helped them come up with the tools so that the computers wouldn’t interfere with each other. Before the repair, the malfunction caused the computers to crash.

In another instance, he worked with ACDelco, an auto parts company that was involved with the release of a new vehicle in the 1980s.

He wasn’t sure of the make and model, but Castillo said the vehicle wouldn’t run due to some kind of auto part malfunction. He said it was months away from going onto the market before the problem was corrected.

Castillo also helped develop updated stealth technology at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo. Stealth technology involves making aircrafts, such as the B-1 and B-2 bombers, undetectable to radar.

He said he wants to continue to empower youth to become successful in the field of engineering.

He recently spoke to seventh-grade classes at Belen Middle School and got the children thinking about what their careers could be like in the future.

One student said she thought a machine to braid hair would be something to make people’s lives better.

He said students need to look at the cost factor that goes along with any invention. For instance, some products might be a good idea, but cost too much for consumers.

“I like to see their light bulbs going off,” Castillo said.

The engineer said there is “a lot of talent” on the table in terms of children that have the skills to be an engineer and don’t fulfill those dreams.

But he said it’s important for children to have support and go after a career they enjoy.

As for his own accolades, Castillo is modest. He thought his award “was in some cardboard box” just a few months after the ceremony rather than prominently placed in his home.

“I have worked hard in my career,” Castillo said. “I have been very fortunate.”


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.