ENGAGE Summer Camp attendee, NASA intern, plans to attend Texas A&M

The sky is the limit for Ivan Delgado.Ivan

The senior Carver High School student has been dreaming of becoming an astronaut since he was 11 years old. At 18, his dream is one step closer to becoming reality.

Delgado is an intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center — the only high school student on the payroll. In the fall, he’ll become the first person in his family to attend college when he begins classes at Texas A&M University as a general engineering student.

One giant leap for mankind

Ever since Delgado learned about Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, he became obsessed with the idea of space travel.

“To me, the engineering aspect of the lunar landing was truly remarkable,” he said.

Delgado began researching the type of fuel the spacecraft used and the special movements it had to perform in order to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. That’s when he knew he was hooked.

Delgado’s parents were migrant workers who never had the opportunity to finish high school. But they encouraged their son to study hard.

“My parents can’t even believe that I am at NASA,” he said. “My parents always wanted me to have more than what they have. They supported me, and it’s paying off.”

Their words — and the encouragement of his teachers at Carver High School — made all the difference.

His AP Algebra II teacher, Samita Debnath, speaks fondly of Delgado.

“When I gave him the info about the NASA program, he came back the next day with the application filled out,” she said. “I asked him ‘Why would I recommend you?’ He said he wanted to be an astronaut, and when he was saying it, he was sincere about it.”

Delgado said he wants to prove to his community that hard work pays off.

“As far back as I can remember, people in my community are always saying they can’t achieve this or that,” he said. “They say that because they lack commitment and determination to achieve what it is they want. Part of my inspiration came from them. I am going to prove to them that the only limits that exist are the ones that one imposes on oneself.”

Delgado’s dream job

During his junior year Delgado was one of 270 high school students to participate in NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholars Project, a weeklong program at Johnson Space Center (JSC).

The application process was tough, but Delgado was determined. That determination turned into a yearlong internship at NASA in the Avionics and Software Branch under the International Space Station Division of the Safety and Missions Assurance Directorate. Every day at 11 a.m., Delgado leaves Carver High School and drives across Houston to JSC.

“My job consists of working on a key program that is used by the Computer Safety Working Group here at Johnson Space Center,” he said. “It is essentially a program that generates an Excel Spreadsheet compiled of relevant data found in NASA’s software directory. This information is then utilized by NASA officials to identify all possible safety concerns for upcoming flights, missions, software transitions or any final safety reviews.”

Delgado is taking advantage of opportunities afforded to NASA employees. He’s learning Russian — something he said is required of all astronauts — and he’s getting scuba certified by a NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory dive master. Before going to space, astronauts learn about weightlessness in the JSC pool. Delgado hopes this will help his resumé stand out when he applies for a full time job at NASA.

Getting to Texas A&M

Delgado decided he wanted to attend Texas A&M after attending an ENGAGE Summer Camp in the summer of 2015 with his high school, an ENGAGE Partner School. ENGAGE programs, developed by the Dwight Look College of Engineering’s Access and Inclusion Program, provide pre-college opportunities for students from underrepresented groups to gain hands-on experience with engineering.

Dr. Sonia Garcia, senior director of the Access and Inclusion Program, is excited about Delgado’s success.

“I am thrilled over the news that one of our own ENGAGE partner students is interning with NASA as a senior in high school, has been admitted to the college of engineering at Texas A&M and will become an Aggie engineer,” she said.

Launched in 2014, Access and Inclusion focuses on the outreach, recruitment, retention and professional development of students from underrepresented groups.

From invitationals (day trips to campus) to the weeklong, residential ENGAGE Summer Camp, students get a first-hand glimpse of life at Texas A&M and the college of engineering.

For Delgado, the ENGAGE Summer Camp showed him what it means to be an Aggie.

“Through hands-on experiments at the ENGAGE camp, I researched engineering concepts such as how thermal energy is used to keep food refrigerated in developing countries,” he said. “My peers and mentors were among the sharpest I’ve ever worked alongside. At that point, I knew I could only find this learning environment at Texas A&M.”

Delgado hopes to make the world a better place through innovative technology. He plans to major in electrical engineering or computer engineering, and one day, he’d like to explore the final frontier.

“People are meant to be pioneers, and I am determined to achieve my fullest potential for myself, my family and my friends,” he said. “I did not own a telescope, but ever since my 11th birthday, I look up at the moon and always say ‘One day.’”

For more information, please contact senior director Dr. Sonia Garcia garcias5@tamu.edu