19 | ENE | 2020
The young Mexican developing space technology
Hibeth is currently studying Mechatronic engineering - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

The young Mexican developing space technology

14/01/2020
20:04
Mexico City
Aline Espinosa
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The young Mexican student from Tampico dreams of becoming and astronaut

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Hibeth Grijalva, a Mechatronics engineering student of the Tec de Monterrey campus Tampico, created a website called Space Mission: Japan to achieve her dream of becoming an astronaut and participating in three airspace and robotics programs in Japan.

Two years ago, Hibeth applied to perform an airspace investigation with Tec professor Sajjad Keshkar, in the Tokyo Metropolitan University facilities. In two weeks, she learned with YouTube videos and books on how to do designs, prints, and assembles of 3D pieces.
 

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Thus, she was selected and the program offered her to stay in its facilities, so her family had to be in charge of the rest of the expenses. With help from her uncles, grandparents, and cousins, the young student was able to attend the program in Japan although she has now some debts to pay.

Hibeth developed her first gyroscope, an invention that helps to maintain the position of satellites and that she will take with her on her second visit to the Asian country after being invited by Keshkar and a friend of his to three airspace programs that will take place from January 13 to June 2020.

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These projects look to train young people in advanced technologies, such as the use of artificial intelligence, 3D printing of organs, robotics, neurotechnologies, virtual reality, and others so as for them to develop an invention in collaboration with Japanese institutions and companies.

To be able to go, the young woman from Tampico had to pay all her expenses: plane, boarding, food, and transport for six months, since the scholarships granted for the programs were limited and the process to obtain them included interviews in English, exams, and other requirements.

Hence, Hibeth asked for economic support to the Mexican government and the to Conacyt. The first told her that “the money was already destined to certain areas” and the second that “the request had to be done six months in advance, due to the magnitude of the project.”

The goal was to collect, before December 27, 2019, USD $13,000 that would be used for boarding, food, and personal expenses. In addition, she would have to collect nearly MXN $62,000 for the plane tickets.

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Hibeth saw her dream disappear but looked for more option thanks to the motivation of her parents, Cristina Grijalva and Francisco Torres, who are merchants that work over eight hours a day “selling everything” and, without it being enough, Francisco “has another job to help me earn more and achieve my dream,” she asserted.

The young woman decided to create a website called Space Mission: Japan, in which she tells her story through a video and explains why she asked for economic support. In addition, she created an Instagram account called Astro_Hibeth with the intention of mentioning the user accounts of NASA members.
 

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“Before opening my account I thought that I could use it when I become an astronaut. Seeing my parents work so hard for me to achieve my dream makes me want to fight like them,” she said.

Internet users spread Hibeth’s case all over Mexico, however, no one made donations and one month before the deadline, she had no money for a plane ticket.

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Meanwhile, she went to a state radio station to share her story, she applied to other scholarships, she went to private companies and organized money raisings with her family in beaches and streets of Tampico. Soon, Mexicans began to donate from MXN $10 to $40.

Despite all her efforts, the young student only collected enough money for two programs: Japan Winter Aerospace Program and Tokyo Metropolitan Research Internship Program; thanks to a scholarship she obtained from Tokyo University and with the money collected from the website, the total amount was reduced.

In these programs, Hibeth wants to improve the gyroscope she elaborated two years ago and develop floating robots: a technology that is used to assist astronauts inside the ships and that monitor satellites maintain their position. The inventions that result from her stay will be used in Japan within two years and there is the possibility of bringing them to Mexico.

Due to the lack of funding, Hibeth had to abandon the third program although she obtained a 50% scholarship. In this project, Emerging Future Technology Training Program, the young student was going to be trained by science experts to develop advanced technology like robotic prosthesis.

“It’s not only about creating arms. Christian Peñaloza, the creator of this project called AURA, used neuronal systems of people so that they can move their robotic prostheses in parallel with their two arms so they can do two tasks at the same time,” she said.

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The young Mexican calculates that if every person that interacted with her posts had donated MXN $10, she would have reached the goal. “It’s not the first time that this happens to me. In summer, I was selected to study Medicine in Houston; I didn’t go because of the lack of resources.”

Hibeth is aware that to achieve her dreams she has to go through long and hard journeys so she wants to convey that with effort, goals can be achieved gradually and that no matter what other people think, we must always fight for what we desire.

Since she was little, all her decisions she has taken are directed toward becoming an astronaut. In elementary and junior high school, she read books about planets or astronomy; in high school, she watched documentaries about galaxies and began to be inspired by those women working in science.

Later on, she became fascinated by Japanese culture and with that, she desired to study there. Her schoolmates mocked her for it and tore the Japan stickers she had in her desk. The bullying lasted for four years until Hibeth decided to go to another school when she was 16 years old.

“It hurt me, but I thought it was sad because they don’t want to discover new things. Leaving was one of the best decisions I’ve made; it has taken me where I am now,” she added.

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As a result of these experiences, she wants to show that any young person, particularly girls, who suffer from more discrimination in science, can do the work she does because “we all start without knowing anything. If you don’t like it in the end, it’s ok, at least you tried,” she added.
 

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In an airspace presentation in Japan, Hibeth was denied access while her male colleagues had no problems. She had to wait until a professor told the organizers that she was a guest in the event. In addition, the attendees thought she was an aide on several occasions. “I was invisible,” she said.

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Looking for dreams
Hibeth thinks that while in other countries science and technology businessmen and institutions are eager to invite young people to study at their facilities, in Mexico, there is no money and scholarships are hard to get.

Cresencio Guendulain, an engineering academic at Tec and Hibeth’s professor, explained that Conacyt scholarships are focused on people who have already graduated and young people who are still studying and who want to obtain experience abroad are left behind.
 

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Therefore, talent is wasted and that prevents the country from developing its own resources. “Money destined for science and technology has been reduced. Scholarships were reduced by 50% and the internship programs in engineering companies disappeared,” he added.

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The founder of the company Mirai Innovation Lab in Mexico, Christian Peñaloza, agreed that Mexico’s economy could improve if the government and companies invested money in young people performing research in their own city. Otherwise, there will never be technological development.

The total investment for science, technology, and innovation went from MXN $91, 390,000 in 2019 to MXN $98,317,000 in 2020; nonetheless, most money is destined to the Public Education Ministry and not to Conacyt so as to promote science in elementary schools, but not for research projects.

In a few days, Hibeth will travel to Japan and she hopes to keep in touch through social networks with young students who want to achieve as many goals as her. “I want to show that anyone can venture into this world without being scared of frontiers because all Mexicans can conquer the world if so we wish,” she said.

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