Ivanna Hernandez

Ivanna Hernandez Ramirez, 15 years old, was born in Villanueva, a town in La Guajira, Colombia, and she currently lives in Santa Marta. She loves all science but she is especially interested in aerospace engineering, and becoming a pilot. She wants to be an astronaut and the first Latin American woman to travel to the planet Mars.

She likes to learn new things and make new friends, she is passionate about physics, astronomy, reading, writing, drawing and she especially admires Japanese culture. Her native language is Spanish, but she has an advanced level of English, can speak and interpret the Japanese language at a basic level, and she also learns French at school.

Ivanna Margarita Hernández belongs to the Apolo Astronomy Group, as a volunteer since June 2016 where she is one of the most active members in helping underprivileged children in vulnerable communities developing their love and passion for science and capture the imagination of other students.

She is an admirer of Diana Trujillo and Adriana Ocampo, who with their work in the aerospace industry and at NASA have brought a bright spotlight onto Colombia in the industry. Ivanna dreams of one day knowing them personally and being able to learn from them and their experience.

Her interest in science started when she was eleven years old and first saw Cosmos, the National Geographic program, specifically the most recent version presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson. It was full of stories and elements such as "the ship of the imagination" that made the "science" topic just amazing in Ivanna's eyes. The program was increasing little by little her fascination and interest in space and the universe. Ivanna has been curious, and Cosmos fed that curiosity with questions about the world that was opening before her eyes with science, it could explain many of her doubts, and at the same time left her many more.


At the age of 11, she won the first place in the science fair of her school. The project gave a tour of different celestial bodies through an experience with virtual reality and holograms, combining her passion for space with new technologies. Having won that contest made her realize that each of the efforts that she made had its reward. This first experience made her search for more activities in STEAM. She joined the foundation Apolo and she became an active member in which she participated in scientific dissemination talks and also began to participate in contest like the “Train like a Martian Challenge” from The Mars Generation.

She did internships with a research group at Magdalena University, where she learned how to search and collect tardigrades in their natural habitat and the processing of these samples in the laboratory. Later, Ivanna also had the opportunity to learn physics at the university.

In 2017 she participated in the Cubes in Space contest being part of the first group of Colombians to send experiments to space. This contest consists of developing an experiment that is sent to space in a suborbital flight in a NASA sounding rocket.

Prior to the trip to Nasa Wallops, Ivanna was interviewed the television program Hoy es el día of the regional channel of the Colombian Caribbean coast, Telecaribe, where she talked about the development of the experiments that she was going to send and the trip that she was going to take.

She traveled in June 2017 to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility where she could see the launch of the experiments designed by the Apolo team, of which she is part. She gave a presentation to a group of 175 people that included personnel of NASA, representatives of the aerospace industry, parents and other students from 5 other countries.

In this event, she met wonderful people, including Julie Sage and Isabel Escobar from Ecuador who has similar interests as her. She still has contact through social networks with them where they share information about contests and opportunities at STEAM.

Cubes In Space also had a mission patch design competition, so she applied her knowledge in digital drawing and won the second place in the 2017 version of the contest, Ivanna says "It was very exciting to see that the cake of the ceremony closing of the event had my design as a decoration, that was a surprise for me".

That same year she attended to the Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, where she had a week of immersion set on the international space station, living the experience of training that real astronauts have to pass through. She learned about the history of space science and teamwork that is involved in successfully carrying out space missions.

With the Astronomy Group, Apolo participated in several promotional and informational events of the MONOCUBE tour, in which, on a stage, she had to explain in front of an audience of more than 300 high school students, what her team learned when launching an experiment in space, and how did they analyze the results after the flight.

Ivanna has also done introductory training in software programming, sensors, and the construction of robots with the Robotic Foundation of the Caribbean (picture 20). There she built a car with which she competed along with other children, doing races and a football competition with the robots.

In October 2017 she traveled to the city of Bucaramanga to attend the first international meeting of scientific disseminators organized by the Industrial University of Santander (UIS), where she was able to personally meet national disseminators such as Santiago Vargas who has a PhD in Astrophysics, international scientist Luis Núñez from Venezaela who is the director of the Halley research group of the UIS university, and Javier Santaolalla from Spain who is a doctor in particle physics and a famous scientific youtuber. On this occasion, she had the opportunity to personally interview Javier Santaolalla for the YouTube channel of her school, and he also gave her his autograph. Ivanna had the opportunity to meet Javier Santaolalla more recently on her 15th birthday (August 7th), where Javier was the guest of honor at a formal lunch to celebrate.

In the school holidays at the end of the year 2017, she took several courses with the University of Cundinamarca, which are:

At the beginning of 2018, she represented her school in the International Particle Physic Outreach Group (IPPOG) competition Paticles4U 2018. Her participation consisted of a video showing how the fog camera works, also known as Wilson's camera, which is a device that is used to detect ionizing radiation particles where you can see different types of traces that come from cosmic particles. She received an honorable mention for her participation.

Ivanna has taken astronomy classes at Sergio Arboleda University, where she learned about the physics behind each celestial object, how to use a celestial chart and made several astronomical observations.

At age of 14, she took her first physics course at a university level online through edx.org called Gravitational Waves of the University of Córdoba-Spain. She passed the class with a 100% grade. She learned about Einstein's relativity, gravitational waves, neutron stars, black holes and the holographic principle.

In 2018 Ivanna participated in the Paradigm challenge competition presenting a video with her little sister and cousin explaining the benefits for the body of physical exercise. Their entry was among the 25 most voted by the public.

In the summer of 2018, she attended to a scholarship of the Tuskegee Airmen Aviation and STEM Training Program (TAAST) in Atlanta, GA. This was the fourth year of the TAAST program, there were 28 students accepted from various schools in Atlanta, with Ivanna Hernandez being the first international student in the history of that program to be accepted.

In her application form for the TAAST program Ivanna wrote an essay explaining why she wants to be a part of the aviation and aerospace industry. She also included her most recent grades from school and described all of the extracurricular activities that she has participated in within the aviation, aerospace, and STEM communities. It is a credit to all her hard work that she was selected by the committee to participate in the TAAST program.

This was an exceptional experience for her as she was able to fly in an airplane as a co-pilot, experience flying in a helicopter, and she could expand her knowledge of aviation and the aerospace industry. Classes were held in traditional classrooms, simulators and real planes. The instructions covered the history of aviation (including the role of African-Americans in aviation), the introduction to aerodynamics, meteorology, and navigation; flight simulator guidance, guidance flights with flight instructors certified by the FAA; had interaction with professionals in the aviation industry; and excursions to aviation museums, military bases and air traffic control centers.

Ivanna had the opportunity to visit the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport where she was able to explore the aircraft hangar, learn and discover the various aspects of aviation and the aerospace industry in the aviation museum of DELTA airlines. She also was able to learn about the work done by the air traffic controllers, the airline dispatchers, pilots, the maintenance technicians, the aeronautical engineer or the aviation administration and also all of her queries and questions asked were answered by the officials who work in the different departments.

Ivanna was also able to visit the Coca-Cola Space Science Center at Columbus State University where she trained with her team in a simulated flight and space mission to Mars. The TAAST program's schedule of activities also included a visit to a radio station in the city of Columbus where she was interviewed and she talked about her experience as an international student of the TAAST program.

On the day of the graduation ceremony, students who showed good performance and leadership in STEM, including Ivanna, were granted another scholarship to attend the National Flight Academy for a summer deployment.

From July 15 to July 20, 2018, she attended to the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida, USA, where students got to gain experience aboard the largest simulated aircraft carrier in the world. With this opportunity, she learned about piloting military aircraft, the role of each of the officers and the strategies they apply to successfully carry out different types of offshore flight missions. Teamwork, mathematical calculations, and effective communication were fundamental during this experience. She had the opportunity to get on the flight simulator and feel the excitement and adrenaline as she took the controls of the plane which tilts, vibrates, and shakes to give the feeling and the illusion of being in a plane in flight.

During her stay in the NAS, she was able to be in the front row in the practice of the "Blue Angels" and see how the experienced pilots maneuver F-18 Hornet planes and take them to the limit while exhibiting precision flights of the best quality, Ivanna says that "Feeling the roar of aircraft engines so close generates an indescribable emotion." She also received a tour of the National Museum of Naval Aviation where she could see hundreds of completely restored and intact airplanes some of which were hung from special beams on the roof of the building that allows the museum to accommodate about 150 vehicles in a relatively small space. The visit to the museum ended with a tour of scale models of several aircraft carriers in the history of the United States Navy and the section on the history of US space exploration.

At age 15, she is the representative of her class before the student council of the school, this has helped her to improve her assertive communication with her classmates, where she arbitrates when there are differences between classmates. She has also had to apply negotiation strategies when it has been necessary to bring before the teachers a concerted suggestion from among all the students. She is also part of his school's honor roll for her excellent grades, commitment, and leadership.

Ivanna has appeared in several article in newspapers and TV in their city where they highlight their motivation and work in STEM.

Ivanna is aware that her quest to have wings to fly very high in the sky is not an easy task and that to reach her goals it is not enough to think big, but she must also act big.

Awards and Recognition

2014 First place in school science fair
2016 Joined Apolo
2017 Participated in The Mars Generation't "Train Like a Martian Challenge"
2017 Internship at Magdalena University
2017 Participated in the Cubes In Space program
2017 Travelled to NASA Wallops Space Flight Facility for Cubes In Space sounding rocket launch with Apolo
2017 Attended space camp in Huntsville, AL
2017 Gave talk at the MONOCUBE tour about Cubes In Space
2017 Participated in introductory training in software programming, sensors, and the construction of robots with the Robotic Foundation of the Caribbean
2017 Traveled to the city of Bucaramanga to attend the first international meeting of scientific disseminators organized by the Industrial University of Santander (UIS) where she met notable scientists and researchers
2017 Took several courses with the University of Cundinamarca
2018 Represented her school in the International Particle Physic Outreach Group (IPPOG) competition Paticles4U 2018
2018 Took astronomy classes at Sergio Arboleda University
2018 Took Gravitational Waves class from the University of Córdoba-Spain on edx.org, finished with a grade of 100%
2018 Participated in the Paradigm Challenge, and her entry was one of the 25 most voted by the public
2018 The first international student to attend the Tuskegee Airmen Aviation and STEM Training Program (TAAST) in Atlanta, GA
2018 Attended the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, FL
2018 Class representative on the student council at her school
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