Hard work helped Rodrigo Vazquez get accepted into N.C. State University's upcoming freshman class.
The Vance High senior credits his school's Academy of Engineering with helping him figure out what he'll study once he gets there.
Vazquez has learned new skills in the academy. He has built and tested bridges in computer simulations and learned to use software to design the commercial buildings that he imagines.
Getting familiar with those tasks helped him decide to study civil engineering or architecture.
"I was interested in engineering," he said. "It took my interest to another level."
Vance's Academy of Engineering just got a boost: A $45,000 donation from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation.
The grant will pay for software that students can use to learn computer integrated manufacturing.
The grant also will pay to train a teacher to lead a computer integrated manufacturing class, which is one of six courses in Vance's Academy of Engineering.
With the software, students will take their engineering and architecture projects beyond the design phase.
They will use the software to convert their designs into 3D models made of plastic or other materials.
The academy's computer integrated manufacturing course is one of six that Vance provides through a partnership with nonprofit Project Lead The Way.
The organization's goal is to help America's schools develop more leaders for careers in science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as STEM.
More than 300,000 students in nearly 4,000 schools nationally are following Project Lead The Way's STEM curricula.
Vance is one of four local public high schools that have an Academy of Engineering program. It serves 310 students at Vance.
In addition to computer integrated manufacturing, students take classes in digital electronics, civil engineering and architecture, and engineering design and development.
The skills they learn can prepare them for an internship or apprenticeship and for college studies.
"This affords students an opportunity to bring industry standards into the high school," said Sabrina Finkbeiner, director of the engineering academy.