14 Feb “STEM opened my eyes to a whole new world”
Alejandra is a 17-year-old teenager with a great passion for learning. Originally from Acahualinca, one of the communities with highest social risk in Managua. The everydayness of her life experienced a complete turnaround when she was given the opportunity to apply for a scholarship for a course in technology and micro-computing as part of Fabretto’s Technical Vocational Education Program. When Alejandra was one week away from completing her computer course, she was extended an invitation to join the robotics team that would go on to represent Nicaragua in an international competition for the first time. The level of technological understanding she acquired through Fabretto facilitated the learning process as she participated in the construction of a vehicle or mobile robot for the first time in her life. “I liked to build miniature robots, but I still did not know how to bring them to life,” she confesses. She never thought that one day she would receive training in that field, much less share a stage in an international competition.
Her team was made up of 5 teens; three were in charge of programming and two in charge of designing and building the robots. Finn Hermeling, a Fabretto volunteer who became her mentor, showed her how to make the pieces more mobile and shared tips that opened her mind and allowed her to dream. “Don’t let the pieces trap your imagination. In a sense, free your mind and let your creativity guide your designs,” and so she did. For three intense months, they built and rebuilt their designs preparing for their first international competition, the FIRST Global Challenge in Washington DC,with over 120 countries participating. Looking back, she smiles as she remembers her nerves as they prepared for the competition. “We were a young team with almost no experience and we were going to compete against very talented young people,” she recollects. It was almost overwhelming for the team, yet they pushed through the nerves and were soon on their way to DC, becoming the first in their community to travel abroad.
Alejandra had been at the Managua airport before, but she had never been on the other side of the glass, that area that, right up until her trip, seemed so mysterious and where only the privileged travelers had the opportunity to enter. “I always dreamed of having the chance to fly on a plane and I almost couldn’t contain myself… I can’t explain the feeling I had as the plane took off, to see the land and objects shrink below me was amazing, incredible…I loved it”. Fabretto’s robotics team did not win the competition, but they stood out as one of the few representing communities at risk. More importantly, the reward of sharing experiences with other young people and learning new skills during the FIRST Global Challenge was the true reward for their dedication.
She explains, “Robotics changed my life and opened my eyes to a whole new world. Before, my world and my vision were small. It was my home, school, my family; that was it. Now, thanks to the opportunities Fabretto has offered me, I want to see more, new cultures, new people, and new places…one day I want to win the robotics competition!” This newfound drive is what we see as Fabretto’s quality education touches the lives of so many families and communities.