David Valdez is famous on the Metropolitan Community College-Business & Technology campus for designing a device that allowed a little boy born without a left hand to ride a bike for the first time. Actually, his fame goes beyond the campus — that feel-good story made headlines locally and even around the country.
“I’m extremely proud,” Valdez, 23, says of the prosthetic adaptor he and instructors Mike Cline and Chris Page produced on a 3-D printer for 3-year-old Hudson Borton. “He loved it, and it gave him a liberty he didn’t have before.”
For rising to the challenge and spending time outside of class designing the prosthetic for Hudson, Valdez was honored last fall with a Student Leadership Award from the Missouri Community College Association.
But now he’s about to graduate from MCC with his associate degree in computer-aided drafting and design. He’s technically an intern this semester, but the company — Sega Inc. in Stilwell, Kan. — hired him full time after two weeks. The engineering and consulting firm designs power plants.
“I absolutely love it,” Valdez says.
He works with engineers in three areas: electrical wiring diagrams, pipe design and power delivery.
Drafting and design is kind of the Valdez family business. His dad used to work as a drafter, then his sister got into it, “and I just followed along.”
Computer-aided drafting was his first career choice after high school, but in 2012 the economy was still trying to shake off the recession. The construction field was shaky, too, “and a lot of friends who were drafters talked me out of it,” Valdez remembers.
So instead he enrolled in the automotive technology program at MCC-Longview in Lee’s Summit. Afterward he worked as a maintenance technician at a Firestone. But six months or so into the job, he decided that wasn’t what he wanted to do.
So he returned to school, this time MCC’s Business & Technology campus.
“All my teachers were really friendly and down to earth,” Valdez says. “They really paid attention to the students and made the whole thing enjoyable.” At Sega he’s working with one of his instructors and several classmates and BT alumni, he says.
MCC’s 2017 commencement ceremony, May 17 at Municipal Auditorium, will be Valdez’s second graduation. The first was his graduation from MCC in 2014.
But the Lincoln College Preparatory Academy grad says he was banned from taking part in that school’s commencement program because “I pulled off the school prank and it got way out of hand.”
Now that he’s working, Valdez says his plan is to save his money so he can continue traveling around the world. He has already visited nine or 10 countries on three continents. He traveled around Europe for about a month in the fall of 2015.
Favorite place so far: Switzerland, with “amazing” culture, nice people and breathtaking scenery. He’d like to return.