From right here on Earth to far out in space, great minds have changed the world. Hispanic Americans made their marks as inventors, astronauts, educators, and more. September 15 to October 15 is a time to honor these people. It’s Hispanic Heritage Month! Keep reading to learn about some huge accomplishments.
Victor Ochoa was born in 1850, decades before the first airplane. Still, the dreamer became an inventor with his eyes on the skies. One of his most famous ideas was the Ochoa Plane, which he made around 1910. This flying machine had two bicycle frames with a motor. The plane had collapsible wings so it could easily be stored away. Ochoa also created a type of motor, an electric brake, and a windmill!
While Ochoa focused on getting off the ground, Ynes Mexia was interested in what was in the ground. Born in 1870, she was a Mexican-American botanist. Mexia explored faraway parts of South America and Alaska. During her travels, she collected specimens of plants to learn more about what grows on the planet. In her life, Mexia discovered more than 500 new plant species. Many of them are even named after the expert!
Franklin Chang-Díaz was born in San José, Costa Rica. He dreamed of going to the United States and becoming an astronaut. When Chang-Díaz finally arrived in the country in 1968, he couldn’t even speak English. But that didn’t hold him back. Chang-Díaz studied hard, and in 1986, his dreams came true. He blasted off to become the first Hispanic-American astronaut in space! Over his career, Chang-Díaz spent more than 1,500 hours away from Earth.
Ellen Ochoa also had some out-of-this-world adventures as a NASA astronaut. In 1993, she became the first Hispanic woman in space. Ochoa blasted off four times in total and spent nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. She went on to become the first Hispanic director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center! Ochoa was also only the second woman to hold that job. The space leader is also an engineer. She’s helped invent optical systems that allow computers to see!
Jaime Escalante knew numbers and had a special way of connecting with students. That’s what made him a great math teacher! Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Escalante got a lot of attention in the 1980s and 1990s. He was working at a high school in Los Angeles, California, that was known for having difficult students. Some educators had given up on the teens, calling them “unteachable.” But Escalante taught them well. His students proved that they could pass a hard math test. A book and a movie told the story of Escalante’s success.
Updated September 24, 2018, 5:03 P.M. (ET)
By Ashley Morgan
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