Scholarship Award Alumni - Wilbert Ruperto-Hernandez

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Wilbert Ruperto-Hernández

University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez
Mechanical Engineering
Bachelor of Science – 2022
2020 USRA Distinguished Undergraduate

When Wilbert was very young, just beginning to read, he picked up his grandfather’s encyclopedias and was fascinated by the pictures of space or anything space related.  Since then he has pursued his dream to become an astronaut and develop robotic and human space exploration missions to explore space.

One of his biggest steps was participating in the Arecibo Observatory Space Academy (AOSA) during high school.  There he had his first research experiences in space engineering and planetary sciences, and learned how to use the observatory to monitor near earth asteroids.  At UPRM, he has led two student team projects to win the NASA Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts - Academic Linkages (RASC-AL) competition in 2019 and 2020.  He led over 70 students in the design of advanced human and robotic space exploration missions that could solve NASA’s greatest challenges for the near and long-term.  He finds himself often faced with very challenging technical projects that in order to solve them he must learn a lot from different fields.  He says, “I love to see how I am gaining knowledge that not only allows me to solve the issues at hand but also will serve me later in life.”

His application to AOSA was due to the encouragement of one of his first mentors, his middle school science teacher, Madeline Pardo.  From his subsequent mentors he’s learned how to be a good mentor.  He guides his teammates by providing them opportunities to interact with industry professionals and informing them about NASA internships.  He aims to bring more Latinos and Spanish speakers into the field.

With the intent of inspiring children and young people in STEM and to honor the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11, Wilbert created and with the local chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS-UPRM) organized the first Puerto Rican Space Exploration Festival at UPRM in Fall 2019, attended by 1500 people from across the island and a neighboring island.  He knows Puerto Ricans are resilient and persistent and wants to help them to dream and achieve their goals.