– Alina Santander Vinokurova – 


Between wanting and doing, there is a long and hard way called “action”. I understood that when I proved myself in science for the first time.

I remember the time I dreamed about space and being an astronaut. I was only 8 years old and the signs to venture into this world came to me from all sides. And how can I ignore them? 

It was time to compete in Scientific Olympiads and I decided to enroll in the subject that most interested me: astrophysics. I studied for weeks, until the day arrived. I took the test, without waiting for anything, and received the results weeks later… I had won my first gold medal in the Scientific Olympiad!

Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young people in my country, I tell them not to be afraid to follow their dreams and goals.

And from that moment, I understood that that that was my thing. That despite liking all the activities I had done before, I was very passionate about the world of science.

I kept getting more involved, until I was 15. Then, the opportunity that changed my life emerged: a trip to attend a summer space camp in Germany. 

Alina Santander Vinokurova

We were not convinced – both my mother and I – to do this trip. It was an unknown country for me, we had not heard of that institute before, and I was still a small girl. But one month before the trip, we began to plan it anyway, do paperwork and prepare ourselves mentally.

It was my first trip alone abroad and the best experience I had, because after that, other opportunities to share what I had learned appeared.

In this camp, there were students from different ages and nationalities. We were trained for an international competition, called Rover Challenge, organized by NASA, for which we had to build a Rover and drive it on a road with obstacles that simulate extraterrestrial soil. It is a worldwide popular competition, for which teams prepare for almost a year.

After spending 2 months in the camp, I returned to Bolivia with the goal of being the pilot of one of these Rovers. So, I trained until being selected to be part of the international team that would participate in this competition.

In 2016, I was the first Bolivian to participate in the Rover Challenge and that year we won the award for the best international team of the competition.

This fact motivated me to start a new project and motivate more young people to live the same experience. So, I started with the “Rover Team Bolivia” project that brings together students from schools and universities to build our own Rover and participate in this competition representing Bolivia.

To be part of the team, we did not ask the students to be specialists in mechanics or robotics. We just wanted them to be committed to the goal and give their best. But most of them had already had some contact with science, because they participated in Science Clubs Bolivia that also helped us spread the call.

I realized the importance of support among people with the same goal, because with that help, we create wonderful things. If we all help and encourage each other, things would be easier. I received help of people around me, and I am grateful for that.

The way to get where we are now was not easy. In order to fulfill the goal of forming this team I went and will go through many more obstacles. There will always be people who give you support, but there are also those who criticize and demotivate. Only the inner strength can keep us focused.

Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young people in my country, I tell them not to be afraid to follow their dreams and goals. Every one builds their own path; some may take longer, others shorter. I am in search of mine.

Learn more about Clubes de Ciencia Bolivia

Alina is an 18 yr old high school student in Bolivia. Cover image is by Aynur Zakirov from Pixabay | CC0 Creative Commons 

Everything Starts with a Dream
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