NASA rewards it and the Catalan student Joel Romero Hernández will spend the summer at MIT, the best university in the world
For some strange reason, the idea that what comes from abroad is always better is widespread in, among other places, Spain. It is an approach that is easy to detect in different areas of society. In sports, without going any further. Normally, the player who comes from another country is, almost without having demonstrated it, better than the one of the house. And obviously you get paid more. Something similar happens in the field of research. Those who come from other latitudes, usually have more credit in advance than those here. It is the eternal provincialism, often unjustified.
Well, the young Catalan Joel Romero Hernandez, just 16 years old, is willing to break with this nonsense. At the moment, this high school student has earned his summer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the best university in the world according to the prestigious QS ranking. And all thanks to the award given by NASA for a project that aims, above all, to save the lives of astronauts who in the future, perhaps shortly, will set sail for Mars. Indeed, Joel is a little genius. And best of all: it’s from here.
The idea of this young student of Vilanova i la Geltrú is to prevent that the cosmonauts that are erected like the first visitors of the red planet perish in the attempt. Joel knows that once these have come to an end, they will not be able to return to Earth. “And nowadays we do not have the technology so that they can return after having stepped on the Martian soil,” explains the young researcher at La Vanguardia. That is why he has designed “an architecture that would allow to place humans in a spacecraft orbiting Mars from where they could control some robots that would be on the Martian surface.”
“Astronauts would be equipped with a virtual reality system. By moving it would generate a signal that would become laser and would be sent to the surface, causing the robots to imitate the human movements “, relates Joel with passion. Wow, it’s as if the astronauts were stepping on Mars but not there.
The most curious of the case is how they managed this brilliant teenager to elaborate the prototype that have been pired the representatives of the North American Space Agency. A project they had the opportunity to see last month at Intel ISEF, the world’s largest fair for pre-university students.
The gadget in question has a bionic hand that, and here comes the most curious of the case, is controlled by a Glove Decathlon. “I do not know if I bought it in the Decathlon or in a Chinese, I do not remember,” says Joel, who stresses that one of the requirements of the research – which he started to create under the auspices of the “Youth and Science” program and improved At Exporecerca Jove, an event that would finally give access to the Intel ISEF – was to “do all the technological part in a self-taught way”. “The components to be used had to be ‘low cost’ so that if any person wanted to reproduce the prototype, he could do it without economic difficulties,” he adds.
The glove is equipped with sensors, like strips, that react to the movement, sending a signal to the bionic hand so that it reproduces the gestures that are being made in origin. The idea of the project came to mind while watching the movie Avatar. And it was from there when he set to work. “I started making the first sketches and thinking about what technology to use.”
The challenge was huge. Above all, because Joel did not have all the necessary basic knowledge. “What is the part of Physics, calculation of the orbits or how to send the ships up there, has been my tutor of the research work of high school who has provided me with all the tools.” However, all the technological part has developed “self-taught, seeking the information they needed and organizing it.”
The young Catalan has had to subtract hours of sleep to carry out his prototype. “I slept a little and I was devastated all day,” he says. But the effort has been worth it. “It’s my passion, it’s a dream that has come true.”
The love of directing the gaze towards the sky comes from small. “As a child I kept asking my parents about the stars.” By that time he was already interested in documentaries. “My passion has always been there and has evolved while growing,” he recalls.
Something comes from the genes. His father is an engineer. And her mother, a psychologist, now helps her to succeed.
Do not go to your head. “He always tells me not to lose the north”.
Your friends are also a good source of motivation. “It is they who give you the energy to move on.” Try to stay with them whenever you can, although you do not have much free time. Beyond the project and the studies, it courses violin in the conservatory – is in the fifth degree of professional. “And now I just got the Advanced.”
While it’s not normal for a 16-year-old boy to embark on a project of this magnitude, Joel does not look like a weirdo. “All people have their virtues, their ways of seeing things, and they are all unique pieces of a great jewel that is our society,” he reflects. Although he admits that when he was a little boy he had something out of the ordinary – “maybe others played football while I was doing my machine drawings” – and could therefore be described as “different”, he argues that, in reality, Everyone is different. ”
Creativity, the key
He says creativity is his thing. In addition to playing the violin – “it is one more means to be able to create and I take it deep inside” – writes and draws. Among his hobbies are also “philosophy and linguistics”.
It is not yet believed that, soon, it will be heading for the United States (it will do so later this month). And even less understands how receptive were the representatives of NASA to see their project, taking into account that “at the fair were people who came with prototypes made in the laboratory.”
“They said they loved the idea. And that was with Decathlon gloves! “He exclaims. “With this I was already happy, because they are people who know what they are talking about and told me that I was on the right path. It was very exciting. ”
Although his project became a reality, Joel would not like to be part of that hypothetical expedition that would become the first human mission to visit Mars. “I really appreciate my life,” he says. He understands that although it would not be necessary to step on the red planet in case of applying his idea, “it continues being very dangerous”.
He is convinced that it will depend on the will of the states how long it takes man to reach Mars. “Ideas and plans already exist,” he says. He fears that the impetus that US President Donald Trump intends to give to the space race goes against the astronauts: “Maybe I will skip the step I was offering with my project to send people directly to Dying there “.
In any case, there is still time for that to happen. “They say that by 2030 they want to put a small stable population on the planet. I do not know. Technology is advancing so fast that it is very difficult to predict. ” What he is sure of is that he would like the experience he will experience this summer at MIT to have continuity. “Maybe not make the race there, but carry out an investigation,” he notes.
Bionic engineering is the degree you would like to study. He believes that it is the ideal degree to combine the two facets that interest him most: astrophysics and technology. Regarding the latter, he would like to dedicate his efforts to apply it to “bring well-being to all those who are suffering nowadays”.
Beyond his admiration for the MIT, Joel has between eyebrow “to do everything that he can so that the investigation evolves more here”. “We are not fools. In fact we are good, and we have professionals with a great preparation. ” He defends that the most important thing is to trust who deserves it. “There are people here who can contribute much to this world. But right now they can not because of the lack of opportunities, “he said.