Since a young age, Leanorine Lorenzana, an incoming senior at Holy Family High School, knew she wanted a life involved with engineering, science and technology.
The 17-year-old enjoyed a taste of such a future recently, having completed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s prestigious women’s technology summer series in Cambridge, Mass.
The rigorous four-week study session began June 23 and ended July 21.
Lorenzana was one of 60 students selected from a pool of more than 600 and one of 40 candidates to take part in a curriculum that included electrical engineering, computer science and mathematics.
“I thought it was going to be very hard when I applied, and I was nervous,” Lorenzana said. “Just going to MIT and the level of education that they’re set at is very complicated and very high. So, when I went in, I thought, ‘I’m not going to know anything compared to the other girls.’”
Lorenzana added, “It was actually an amazing program the way they focused it. It was a crash course on certain things. Everyone was in the same boat, but we had residential tutors and office hours.”
Lorenzana is no stranger to engineering.
She wrote the winning essay for the 2018 City of Los Angeles Women in Engineering Day Contest, in which she suggested plans on how to handle high volumes of tourism during the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
The Eagle Rock native claims to have learned to use a computer by the age of 3, admires her uncle Michael Wong, a computer programmer, and was encouraged to apply for the summer program by her aunt Raichelle Aniceto, an MIT doctoral candidate in space systems engineering.
“It was like Christmas when I found out about the program,” Lorenzana said. “I’ve always had an interest in engineering, especially computer science and [Aniceto has] known that, so she referred me to the program.”
Lorenzana filled out the paperwork by the Jan. 15 due date and was informed April 27 that she was on a waiting list.
“Just to be on the wait list, knowing that I wasn’t denied automatically, that was the positive,” she said. “On the other hand, I was kind of bummed about it. I just had to wait.”
There was little downtime, though, because the following Monday Lorenzana received an email stating that she had been accepted.
“I don’t think we’ve even had anyone ever apply for this,” said Robert Bringas Jr., Holy Family’s assistant head of the School for Advancement. “She took a chance and applied for it, so I’m pretty excited. I think it speaks volumes for our science program and [Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math] Academy, and the things we’re trying to do at this school.”
The MIT summer program is certainly not a camp.
Lorenzana took part in one-hour-and-45-minute classes taught by MIT graduate students in her three fields and was expected to turn in a final project for each subject.
She created a heart monitor in her electrical engineering lab, while her final project was to program and build a mini child’s piano.
In mathematics, Lorenzana and a partner wrote a report explaining cryptocurrency and, in computer science, not only did she learn to program games such as Hangman and Tetris, but her final project was to create a rotor-based engine that hit 3,400 revolutions per minute.
The summer courses proved to be eye-opening.
“We went over all these things that you know about, but never really go in-depth about,” Lorenzana said. “And it was funny, because we would go to the movies, and we’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s one of the things we learned in class.’ It’s just shown in real life.”
Lorenzana, who plans to apply to MIT, hopes the visit was a prelude for more things to come.