BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
Kevin Rodriguez, a senior at Christ the King High School in Middle Village, is poised to become one of the breakout stars of the class of 2015. The Glendale native was accepted to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and will begin working toward a mechanical engineering degree in the fall.
“I want to focus on biomechatronics, which is exoskeletons and prosthetic limbs,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve always been interested in exoskeletons, especially because I grew up on that whole video game culture, including Iron Man and things like that.”
Last summer, Rodriguez had the honor of being selected to attend MOSTEC (MIT Online Science, Technology and Engineering Community), a six-month online engineering program offered by MIT to exemplary high school seniors nationwide. MOSTEC allows students to conduct independent research online while sharing their observations and findings in a blog created by college. As part of the program, students get to spend one week at MIT presenting their research, as well taking classes and lectures.
During his visit, Rodriguez spent time at the college’s biomechatronics lab, where he met associate professor and lab director Hugh Herr, PhD. Herr was injured during a blizzard while climbing Mount Washington in New Hampshire back in 1982 and became a double amputee from the waist down.
Rodriguez was moved by Herr’s ability to overcome his personal and physical obstacles through feats of science.
“He was very inspiring in the way that he made his own powered prosthetics,” Rodriguez said. “Now he’s walking about just like anyone else.”
Inspired by his passion for engineering and design, Rodriguez became the founder and president of a chapter of the Technology Student Association (TSA), a national nonprofit organization, at Christ the King High School earlier in the school year. The club is currently focused on the task of building a website to share information, findings and blog posts.
As a member of the Christ the King Mathematics Team, Rodriguez is currently tied for first place in the statewide league with a couple of fellow CTK students. He is also one of the rising stars on the school’s speech and debate team. The team will be competing in the state championships in Oneonta this week, as well as nationals in Florida the following month.
In addition to his achievements in the fields of science and technology, Rodriguez has also enjoyed great success in the performing arts. He is a member of Christ the King’s musical theater club and will star as the Wizard in their upcoming production of “The Wizard of Oz,” opening next week.
For the past 11 years, Rodriguez has performed as part of a local competitive dance team. He is prolific in many diverse styles of dance, including jazz and contemporary, and has won awards for his performances.
His experiences and triumphs as a competitive dancer inspired Rodriguez to help improve the lives of physically disabled people through his work in the field of biomechatronics.
“One of the things that I realized when I got into what I want to study is that there are a lot of people who can’t experience those kinds of things,” he said. “I want to provide people with the ability to experience anything that they want to, whether it’s being onstage and performing or climbing a mountain. I want them to be able to do that.”