Exploring Hydraulics and Hijinks with Club Latinitas

Here at Latinitas, we’re interested in letting our students grow starting at the STEM, and this week’s lesson was no different! Latinitas runs weekly clubs in schools in Austin and San Antonio for girls between the ages of 9 to 14, and I was lucky enough to visit the Latinitas at Widen Elementary for their lesson on hydraulics and how they work. 


Now hydraulics are no laughing matter, this is serious stuff, and if we were going to empower and educate our future leaders, we needed them to be focused. So naturally, we started Club off with a recess break, to let our students run around before getting down to the nitty-gritty. The students played tag and ran through some secret handshakes before coming back inside for the real deal; the hydraulics lesson! 

Our lovely Programs Leader, Alexandria Garza, started the students off with a simple question; What is an engineer? 

“They create stuff. An engineer tries to create stuff with a wrench.” One student explained. 

“An engineer is like a worker that works for somebody.” Another thought aloud. 

And though they were nearly there, Garza jumped up to go into a bit more detail, “Mechanical engineers design and create the machines that work with hydraulics.” Garza then flipped the slide, teaching the girls about Maria Cecilia de Castro Breda, a Latina and a hydraulic design engineer for tractors at John Deere. I got to see in real-time why representation matters, as one of the students raised her hand asking, “Does she work with for an engineer?” To which Garza happily replied, “No, she is the engineer.” 

From there, she shared a video explaining the inside mechanics of a hydraulic system and the real-world applications they can have. After the video came the real fun, as Garza took out a handcrafted hydraulic arm made out of cardboard and water-filled syringes to use as an example. The students broke off into teams and were tasked with lifting one of the three items available, a soda can, a Chick-fil-A fry container, or a water bottle. Though seemingly simple, lifting any of the items proved challenging as each student maneuvered only one part. Working together the teams yelled out instructions, gleefully pressing down on their syringes, filtering the water through tubes into the other parts, ultimately controlling one mechanic of the arm. 

One hydraulic moved the arm as a whole, swaying it from side to side, while another controlled the arm’s reach or clasping movement. This made grabbing even one of the items a monumental team effort. With a little luck and lots of smarts, the students were able to do it! I even got the chance to participate, and am delighted to report back that my team was able to collect and lift all three items! Not only was it a fun exercise, but an educational one, as the students walked away with a better understanding of hydraulics, and everything that goes into them. 

At the end of the day, I sat down with the students to ask them a few questions. Their favorite part of the day, resoundingly was “the hydraulic arm”. And as to why they loved Club Latinitas? Well, nine-year-old Athena has that answer, “Latinitas is a great after-school program.” Her favorite part of Club, “[is] that we get to hang out with our friends and do science experiments.” But that wasn’t the only good thing the students had to say about Club or the people in it, as twelve-year-old Destanie added, “Alex is a great teacher.”

Getting to be a part of Club Latinitas was so much fun. Our students are as smart as they are energetic, and it was a blast getting to see how much they learned in such a short amount of time. A big shoutout to the students at Widen Elementary, and our phenomenal Programs Leader, Alexandria Garza. And if you’re interested in having Club Latinitas in your school next year, check out our website for more information!


  • Camila Dejesus

    Magazine & Media Editor, Camila Dejesus has been writing since she was a child and enjoys all forms from creative writing down to narrative analysis. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a bachelor's in Television and Radio Production and works full-time at Latinitas Magazine. In her free time, she loves writing stories, water coloring, or playing songs on her Baritone Ukulele. Now, her greatest passion is finding new topics that will engage and inspire Latinx youth.

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