From ALT to InventTeam, Alejandra Cortes is taking the world by storm sySTEMatically

Junior+Alejandra+Cortes+holds+the+InvenTeam%E2%80%99s+device%2C+Hydra%2C+which+she+has+been+working+on+for+three+years.+Alejandra+is+currently+working+on+motion+programming+for+Hydra.+Cortes+has+been+on+the+InvenTeam+leadership+team+for+two+years.

Photo credit: Lola Thomas

Junior Alejandra Cortes holds the InvenTeam’s device, Hydra, which she has been working on for three years. Alejandra is currently working on motion programming for Hydra. Cortes has been on the InvenTeam leadership team for two years.

By Lola Thomas, Staff Reporter

 It all began her sophomore year during COVID-19. “Blinding Lightsby The Weeknd was streaming through everyone’s phones, and the community greeted each other in virtual boxes accompanied by Zoom glitches and breakout-room meetings. Through a time of pancake cereal and TikTok dances, Alejandra Cortes was on her own track, becoming a leader in InventTeam and serving on the Ambassador Leadership Team.

From an early age, Cortes said she has always had a strong interest in STEM. She decided to explore her interest with Archer’s InvenTeam during her sophomore year. 

“I had learned more about InventTeam, and I was really intrigued with the programming motion part of it. I decided to join, and it was a great opportunity for me to learn how to collaborate with other students,” Cortes said. “In STEM, it’s all about collaboration because you’re never really working by yourself. Being part of a small team is a great experience, and I found that it was a perfect opportunity for me to explore my passion for computer science.” 

In STEM, it’s all about collaboration because you’re never really working by yourself. Being part of a small team is a great experience, and I found that it was a perfect opportunity for me to explore my passion for computer science.”

— Alejandra Cortes ('24)

In InvenTeam, the students have been collaborating to create a device called Hydra. Hydra is a system that detects embers before a fire starts and uses a sprinkler system to extinguish them. The inspiration for this device stemmed from personal experiences with wildfires in California, specifically in 2019 when Archer was evacuated during the Getty Fire. The team aims to fix this problem and prevent further destruction in California. Cortes is currently working on the motion detectors that track the embers.

“She’s been really persistent and hunting down some of the bugs in the circuits and in the code, so she’s really been leading that group,” head of InvenTeam Mike Carter said.  

While working on Hydra, Carter said the InventTeam has faced some bumps in the road. At their 2022 Eureka Fest, Hydra caught on fire moments before their presentation. According to Carter, Cortes rushed to fix Hydra successfully, just in time for their presentation. Carter said that Cortes has been heavily committed to perfecting the device ever since.

“[Alejandra has been] really sticking around and coming in a little extra to make sure that works,” Carter said. “Her genuine curiosity and her commitment are really inspiring to stick with it and to hunt down the bugs and to make it work.”

Cortes has also been a part of Archer’s Ambassador Leadership Team since 10th grade. She said her work for ALT over the years has guided her to become a leader.

“When we met Alejandra, we knew that she would definitely rise to be a leader,” Director of Admissions Felicia Paik said. “She’s been terrific from the beginning. Ms. Alcala and I pride ourselves on being good talent spotters.”

Over the years, Cortes has volunteered for as many Ambassador Leadership Team events as possible, such as attending open houses, leading the Admissions Ambassador Training meetings, conducting tours and participating in day host panels.

“She has done a myriad of things for the Archer admissions office over the years, and it culminated in her being awarded the Ambassador of the Year Award last school year,” Paik said. “Alejandra is an excellent representative of the school — she’s just terrific.”

From InvenTeam to ALT, Cortes said that she impacts the Archer community by displaying her grit, determination and confidence.

“I’m able to impact the [Archer] community by being a role model for other students and encouraging them to be themself,” Cortes said.