Eric Olaguir, an El Puente Research Fellowship scholar and a University of New Mexico undergrad has been accepted into the highly competitive Apple Scholars Program.
“I want to advance the development of technology here in New Mexico and Albuquerque,” Olaguir said. “I just want to bring more resources and opportunities and also be an inspirational role model to other engineers of color, men or women and uplift New Mexico.”
Apple Inc. has partnered with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities to produce the Apple Scholars Program which is part of the 2021-22 HACU Scholarship Program. Eight students from HACU-member institutions were selected after sharing their views on the tech industry and showing how they wish to contribute to the future of technology.
“I’m really proud of him. I’ve had the opportunity to see him literally grow up since he was in middle school.” said Alejandro Mendiaz-Rivera, Olaguir’s mentor and director of the El Puente Research Fellowship. “For him to receive this national award is really heartening. I know that pursuing higher education is not easy, but he is extremely dedicated and intelligent, so I’m not surprised. I’m extremely happy."
Olaguir is currently a junior at UNM pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. As a first-generation college student, Olaguir has faced many obstacles on his journey. Olaguir uses UNM programs such as El Centro de la Raza and the Men of Color Initiative to help him navigate the obstacles of college.
“I just want to say thank you to Alejandro from El Centro and his team,” Olaguir said. “I want to thank them for introducing me to concepts and things of graduate school and for opening my eyes to many more opportunities. I just want to say thank you to all of them, I’m extremely grateful.”
As an Apple Scholar, Olaguir will receive a $15,000 scholarship, an Apple mentor for a year, and participate in an exclusive one-week immersion event with Apple.
The El Puente Research Fellowship is part of El Centro de la Raza. The fellowship is available to students who are first generation, low-income, or members of an underrepresented ethnic group in higher education. El Puente Fellows must complete a research project in their area of interest. They are provided with mandatory seminars and the support of an instructional team to aid with their studies.
“My research is on drone swarms and how to effectively use techniques such as artificial intelligence and other techniques that will help create and develop an efficient defensive system,” Olaguir said.
In the future, Olaguir hopes to continue his education and pursue a master's degree.
“I want to see where this Apple Scholars program will take me,” Olaguir said. “I’m open to anything, just to gain any type of experience.”
Olaguir is yet another successful El Puente fellow. Recently, UNM senior, First-gen student, and El Puente fellow Raven Otero-Symphony became the first New Mexican to receive the aerospace Brooke Owens Fellowship. The fellowship provides gender minorities with opportunities in the aerospace field.