America Hernandez is a civil engineering student at Los Angeles Mission College who volunteers with DIY Girls, an organization outside of Los Angeles, California that encourages girls to pursue engineering. America is a graduate of the program and part of a team that developed a solar-powered tent for the homeless in order to solve a problem in their community. "Discovering You: Engineering Your World" is produced by NBC News Learn in partnership with Chevron, the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Science Foundation.
Discovering You – Engineering Your World – America Hernandez
AMERICA HERNANDEZ (Engineering Student):
My name is America Hernandez and I'm studying to be a civil engineer. I go to Los Angeles Mission College. I decided on civil engineering because it revolves around construction and that's something that I've seen almost all my life because my dad is a construction worker. I grew up in Pacoima and it's a low-income community here in L.A. And I grew up not knowing much about engineering. It wasn't until I joined DIY Girls that I learned more about engineering. One of the things that we had to do with DIY when I first joined was create something that can help solve a problem in our community. We decided to go with homelessness because it was something that we see in our community a lot on our way to school. And then from there, we decided, what are things that the homeless need? And the number one thing that came to mind was shelter. So we decided to create a solar-powered, portable tent for the homeless. And it's a tent that is easy to fold and put together and it fits into a backpack.
TEACHER: Hi there. Ready to unpack this?
HERNANDEZ: We decided to call different homeless shelters and ask and see what were most of the things that they needed and they said a lot of sanitation. This is a solar powered box. And when the occupant presses the button, there's a timer and it tells them how much time they have to get out of the tent before the UVC lights start sanitizing. There’s also a sensor, which is right here, in case the occupant forgets that the UVC lights are cleaning the tent. The sensor tells the UVC lights to turn off so then the occupant doesn’t get harmed by the lights. The backpack is like a regular backpack. On the outside, there's clear plastic and that's where the solar power box goes. So then when the person is carrying the backpack, the solar powered box can charge with the sun. Our tent is essentially made for a woman and two children since that is something that is seen a lot. Right now, I'm working with them and mentoring girls to learn more about engineering and hopefully get them to join in as well. I think that mentoring other girls helps them a lot because it gives them a different point of view that they don't see as much. You get to get other people's insights and advice. I didn't really know much about it until I started hearing stories about other women that were in engineering and it really caught my attention. In the future, I want to own my own construction company and hopefully start a program for low income housing. Try to get out of the comfort zone a lot more because at the end, it's all about the opportunities that you get. And sometimes, those opportunities can lead to a path that might end at a brighter future for you.
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