In his garage, Heriberto Reynoso has robots that move objects, execute tasks and perform simple movements.
His robots have done more than he programmed them to do: They have opened doors and created big opportunities for The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College computer science senior.
Reynoso built his first robot as a sophomore at Simon Rivera High School in Brownsville for a Technology Student Association competition.
“Before then I was into RC cars, which my former neighbor had given (me), and that was a hobby,” he said. “So, I had worked with RC car motors before and was able to build it from scratch using those parts.”
Reynoso was hooked. He continued to build and enjoyed participating in competitions, such as the Rio Grande Valley Regional Science and Engineering Fair, which celebrates 50 years in March.
“At those competitions, you not only get to create something yourself, but you get to see what your peers are doing,” he said. “To me, that is great because then you get ideas on ways to incorporate someone else’s ideas and their creativity into your own projects.”
Always looking ahead, Reynoso knew artificial intelligence was the future of robotics, but the path to his own future after high school was less clear.
When he decided to attend school close to home, he talked to a number of professors at UTB/TSC and found the right fit in the computer science program to study programming in depth.
“The professors were willing to talk to me, and I was able to find the right
fit for me,” he said. “Although UTB/TSC is close to home, it doesn’t make it any lesser in quality. I actually think it is a really great bargain for a bachelor’s degree.”
The last two summers, Reynoso was an intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the leading U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system. There he helped develop robots used in space exploration.
“I found when I was there I was at the same level as other interns from Caltech (The California Institute of Technology), MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and other bigger schools,” he said. “It was a great experience.”
During the school year, Reynoso encourages students across the Rio Grande Valley as a presenter and mentor, urging them to get started with internships and camps early, even before college.
“There are a lot of programs for students interested in science and engineering to start looking into now,” he said. “Participating in competitions and science fairs is also a great outlet.”
After he graduates, Reynoso hopes to work for NASA’s JPL. For now, he continues to build robots at his home.
In the next few months, he plans to collaborate with his friends and others
on his project through a live webcast on www.valleyrobots.com. On the website he will solicit ideas from those who log on.
“Right now I have this idea of a robot that is an expandable ball that can be used for things ranging from emergency response to collecting specimens on mars,” he said. “It’s all about collaboration, and the more help you get the better.”