Angelica Hernandez found her unexpected calling when the robotics club at Carl Hayden gave her a taste of engineering. Angelica was at Carl Hayden when Stinky made his competitive debut, though she was unable to go to the competition due to ROTC duties.
Angelica had a lot to grapple with as an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. from Zacatecas, Mexico at 9 years old with her single mother. Despite those challenges, she graduated as the school’s valedictorian, then studied mechanical engineering at Arizona State. After being approved as a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012, Angelica graduated from Stanford University with a Masters of Science in Atmosphere and Energy in 2014 and is now starting an exciting career focused on clean energy.
Like many kids, Angelica had almost no clue of what an engineer does when she joined the robotics club at Carl Hayden. “But then I discovered the competitions and the mentoring, both of which I found that I loved.” she confesses. “It’s one thing to be working on a robot in a schoolroom but the competitions took me into a world I’d never had any exposure to–it was a place where I was meeting real inventors and scientists and everyone was so excited about all the different designs. I learned about working in teams and the fun of experimentation and I realized, this is what I want to do with my life.”
Today, Angelica acknowledges she is an example for others who might not thinking engineering is in the cards for them. “It’s very moving to me that young girls looks up to me as a success story,” she says.
Angelica currently works on energy efficiency programs for Nexant, Inc, an Arizona-based company focused on clean energy solutions. “I think the most exciting part of being an engineer is that every day, you’re helping to change the world,” she says. “You might be working to solve our energy challenges, or maybe you’re saving someone’s life with biomedical engineering, or maybe you’re working in developing countries, or you’re making safer buildings. No matter what you focus on, as an engineer you feel like you are part of creating our world’s future.”
Giving back remains an important part of Angelica’s life–and today, she’s gratified to serve as a mentor as well as a judge at competitions similar to the one that thrust Carl Hayden High into the limelight and as an advocate for the Dream Act. Angelica has been recognized with numerous awards, including the City of Phoenix’s Outstanding Young Woman of the Year and Arizona State University’s Distinguished Graduating Engineering Student.