Gerardo Vargas Avila: the poblano who will make history at NASA

For Gerardo Vargas Avila, going to NASA, representing Puebla, is an honor and something that makes him happy, as well as an important part of his professional life.

Nota: Esta nota tiene una versión en español 

Gerardo Vargas Ávila is a student of Nanotechnology and Molecular Engineering at the University of the Americas Puebla (UDLAP), who will work at NASA with a project he is promoting with other young Mexicans.

In an interview for Poblanerías, Gerardo commented that it all started with a program that he learned about thanks to a university classmate, who was looking for support to attend, which consisted of a camp where finally teams were made to develop a project, the winner was going to get NASA to work with them on this one.

In Huntsville, Alabama, 120 students from around the world gathered for five days in November 2021, as part of the Air and Space Program (IASP) 2021, promoted by the company AEXA, although first those interested had to apply, do an interview, send documents, and then they were given notice to those chosen, among them, Gerardo.

"It was a space camp in Alabama. We had a week of astronaut training, we had several activities as well, like rocketry workshop, we put together a rocket, and a lot of things as well." he recounts.

For the young student, going to NASA, representing Puebla, is an honor and something that makes him happy, because he mentions that, although there have already been Mexican astronauts, he would like to be the first poblano to get it, his expectations are in that.

He also comments that the state of Puebla is making great progress in engineering, especially because of the automotive industry in the region, which he believes has encouraged schools to introduce more engineering courses and, therefore, the interest of students in fields such as Nanotechnology and Molecular Engineering, which is what he is studying, has grown.

The project that took him to NASA

Within the program he attended, the design of a project was included, where the 120 participants were challenged, by teams, to create a mechanism that generates movement and changes when it receives another temperature. Gerardo Vargas Avila joined 15 other students in a team named JPL.


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Una publicación compartida de Gerardo Va (@gerardo_va19)

Among them, there are those from states like Oaxaca, Veracruz, Chihuahua, Hermosillo, Estado de México, Querétaro, and other places, Gerardo says. Among all of them they made a mechanism with which they achieved their accomplishment.

"It's like a rim, a wheel, which, when it receives temperature in the center, it expands and the parts of the rim, which are the blades, rotate. This is what the judges really liked and we won. As our prize, we were given the opportunity to have NASA manufacture our design, under our supervision," he explains.
Gerardo Vargas Ávila
Gerardo Vargas Ávila shows the mechanism he created in Alabama, along with his 15 colleagues from different states of Mexico. (Photo: Rodrigo Peña/Express Media)

Although, the achievement of the poblano does not end when the manufacturing of the project concludes, but this mechanism will be sent to the International Space Station for six months; to this launch, the 16 Mexicans will attend.

"Follow your dreams, it is very important to follow what you want, don't stop for anything, no matter what people tell you. It took me a lot of work to get to that point, but the important thing is always to do what you like the most and get there, and if you don't have the funds, look for them." she says."

Support needed for travel expenses

Gerardo mentions that it is essential to have funds to pay for the trip to NASA, as well as their stay in the United States, since the program is only for their project to be promoted, they are not given support for lodging and food.

There is still no specific date to start the project, but Gerardo assures that the estimated dates are between December 2021 and January 2022, in the meantime he will continue to raise the funds he needs.

Gerardo Vargas Ávila
The Puebla native has multiple goals, in which he seeks to make history, such as participating in space missions. (Photo: Rodrigo Peña/Express Media)

He recalls that, for the camp in Huntsville, Alabama, he also had to make a large expenditure in order to cover the costs, so now he will start fundraising "from scratch".

He also wants to study a master's degree, including flight classes, he mentions, as he confesses he would like to become a pilot and astronaut, for that reason this is just the beginning of the goals he has at a professional level.

"My future project going forward is to work at NASA or some special agency that are focused on the next space missions, which is to send women to the moon, to keep sending more people to the moon...and besides the mission to send people to Mars." he shares.

Anyone who wishes to support Gerardo, can send him a message through his Facebook account: Gerardo Va, or through his Instagram: @gerado_va19.

He also has PayPal for donations:

Text and interview: Karen Mojica

Video and photos: Rodrigo Peña

Translation by Karla Giselle Bonales Ramírez