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Hispanic Heritage Month: Someone to Celebrate for Every Letter in STEAM

National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 through October 15) is a great time to celebrate the influence of Hispanic culture in STEAM fields in your classroom. Here at Ozobot, we celebrate diverse voices and perspectives, and we want everyone to have an opportunity to shape the future by coding and creating!

Here are four extraordinary individuals (and one group) who everyone can look up to and admire for their influence across science, technology, engineering, art, and math. To celebrate Hispanic Heritage in your classroom or home this month, feel free to also check out these lesson ideas from the National Education Association’s website, and read on to get ideas and inspiration from our selected STEAM success stories!

Ellen Ochoa | Hispanic Heritage Month: Someone to Celebrate for Every Letter in STEAM

S  (Science) – Ellen Ochoa

5, 4, 3, 2, 1… liftoff! NASA astronaut Dr. Ellen Ochoa became the first Latina to travel to outer space in 1993, but her list of accomplishments doesn’t end there. She began her career with a bachelor’s degree in Physics and went on to complete master’s and doctorate degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. Dr. Ochoa served on four space shuttle missions, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit and earning NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal. Most recently, Dr. Ochoa served as the first Hispanic director of the Johnson Space Center.

Ochoa has given more than 300 presentations on the importance of science education for women and minorities. She just retired from the Johnson Space Center in May of this year. Now she says she’d like to get back into playing the flute, which she actually considered as a career once (proof that science and music do indeed play well together). Dr. Ellen Ochoa shows us that when it comes to ambition, the sky isn’t the limit, the universe is!

T  (Technology) – TECHNOLOchicas

The TECHNOLOchicas are an awesome group of women who have joined together to raise awareness for young Latinas and their families about opportunities and careers in tech! The TECHNOLOchicas highlight inspirational stories from their ambassadors, who volunteer in outreach programs and come from diverse backgrounds to unite in the common goal of shaking things up in technology fields.

Here are three ways for your class or family to get involved with the TECHNOLOchicas:

  • Follow @TECHNOLOchicas on Twitter and Instagram and like TECHNOLOchicas on Facebook for daily tips, inspirational quotes, and Latinas in technology news that you can share with friends.
  • Ask a TECHNOLOchica to make an appearance at your school or community organization. Contact technolochicas@ncwit.org to start planning.
  • Know a Latina in technology who should be a TECHNOLOchica? Share this application form with her!

E  (Engineering) – Vanessa Galvez

Vanessa Galvez is a civil engineer known for using her knowledge and talent to benefit her community. Galvez works for the New York City Department of Design and Construction, and  oversaw the institution of 164 biowales in Maspeth, Queens. Bioswales are beautiful natural areas of engineered soil and water-absorbent plants, located on sidewalks and near stormwater catch basins.

“I take pride in bioswales,” Galvez told Latin Trends. “If I’m driving around with my family I’ll say ‘Oh look! I built that!’ At first you look at it and you think it just looks like a tree pit, but once you look at all the specs, all the standards, you realize it’s really helping the City.” Galvez was inspired to attend NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering after seeing the Army Corps. of Engineers’ response to levee failure in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Now, Galvez’s desire to help others through engineering solutions is inspiring others!

A  (Arts) – Rafa Esparza

Rafa Esparza is a California-based artist and the son of Mexican immigrants from Durango. In 2016, he completed a project about making adobe bricks, in collaboration with his father. Prior to immigrating to the U.S., Esparza’s father had built his first house in Mexico utilizing the very same brick-making method. Esparza’s own adobe project, constructed inside a gallery in Hollywood, replaced the traditional “white box” exhibition space.

Esparza’s more recent project, “de la calle”, was a surreal parade through Santee Alley in Los Angeles’ fashion district that coincided with an exhibition of his adobe work at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. ”I initially was thinking of downtown because I used to live off of 7th and Spring,” he told the LA Times. “I saw a lot of shops that were owned by Latinx families that were disappearing—quickly. Then I started having a conversation with [ICA curator] Jamillah [James] and it became more apparent and more important to me to bring this idea to life.”

Jaime Escalante | Hispanic Heritage Month: Someone to Celebrate for Every Letter in STEAM

M  (Math) – Jaime Escalante

Jaime Escalante was born in La Paz, Bolivia to two teachers. He followed in their footsteps, and began his teaching career in Bolivia before moving to East Los Angeles, where he began teaching high school math. His claim to fame came in the 1980’s, when his students scored higher on their AP Calculus tests than ever before.

The movie Stand and Deliver is based on Escalante’s life and the accomplishments of his students. His teaching philosophy promised students that they could get jobs in electronics and engineering if they learned math: “I’ll teach you math and that’s your language. With that, you’re going to make it. You’re going to college and sit in the first row, not the back because you’re going to know more than anybody.”

Teachers, students, and families everywhere: how will you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? Let us know if you have any other ideas or people you look up to in the comments below!


Ellen Ochoa (blue suit image): By NASA on The Commons – Ellen Ochoa, No restrictions

Jaime Escalante: By ESanchez013 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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