The 15th of September kicks off the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. This month-long celebration through the 15th of October recognizes the attributes of Hispanic culture. It also recognizes American citizens of a Hispanic background who have made significant contributions to society.
History of National Hispanic Heritage Month
According to the US government website for this celebration, National Hispanic Heritage Month was started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, Ronald Regan expanded the event to a 30 day period. The 15th of September is the anniversary of the independence of several countries in Latin America including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. During this time, Americans celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
You can learn more about National Hispanic Heritage Month by checking out dedicated sites from other historical and cultural resources such as The Smithsonian and The National Endowment for Humanities.
Notable Engineers of Hispanic Descent
TryEngineering empowers educators to foster the next generation of technology innovators by providing resources that engage and inspire school-aged children. Let’s celebrate this month and inspire young minds by recognizing some notable US Engineers and Inventors of Hispanic descent.
Luis von Ahn: CAPTCHA
If you ever selected “I’m not a Robot” on a website, you have this engineer to thank! Luis von Ahn was originally from Guatemala and is well-known for his website security program CAPTCHA. Completely Automated Public Turing test for telling Computers and Humans Apart, or CAPTCHA, provides a security check on websites by providing tests that are easy for humans to understand, but difficult for a computer to pass.
According to invent.org, von Ahn’s interest in technology was sparked by trying to understand how the machinery in his family’s candy factory worked. He credits having access to a Commodore 64 personal computer by age eight for his interest in developing technology. Years later, the engineer and inventor pursues projects that can have large scale impact on the world.
Interested in learning more about engineering that helps develop technologies like CAPTCHA? Check out this career pathway in Computer Information Systems from TryEngineering.
Rea Ann Silva: Beautyblender Sponge
We often think of engineering inventions as big, complex, or highly technical. Simple everyday objects often come from the minds of engineers as well. Rea Ann Silva was the daughter of Latino parents from Los Angeles, CA. According to the Natural Museum of American History, she began her career in design and make-up and eventually went on to do studio make-up applications in the entertainment industry. Silva became a high-profile Latina woman to work primarily in a predominantly white beauty industry. Her work as a make-up artist with women of color helped launch her career as an innovator in beauty products.
Silva was determined to create an efficient make-up application process that kept up with the fast-pace of the industry. Additionally, the introduction of high-definition television meant studio make-up applications for on-screen entertainers were more critical than ever for reducing visible flaws. By simply experimenting with reconstructing her own sponges, she found that an egg-shaped sponge worked extremely well. After investing in her own concept, the Beautyblender sponge is now a well-recognized cosmetic staple in both personal and professional make-up environments.
Want to learn how engineers develop and test materials used to create a range of products like the Beautyblender sponge? Learn more in this career pathway on Materials Engineering.