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UW Scholar Lifts Off

Seattle Foundation scholarship recipient Ivan Machuca aims to change the world, one rocket at a time


September 14, 2015

Ivan Machuca never had it easy. But that didn’t stop him from developing a sense of humor and shooting for the stars. As a child turning bottle caps into rockets, he dreamed of studying aeronautics one day. Through hard work, a bit of luck and two Seattle Foundation scholarships, he is well on the way to realizing that dream.

Ivan has overcome obstacles that many never have to endure. A native of Mexico, he was only 3 years old when his father passed away. He grew up with his mom in Atlanta. Due to a bullying situation at his high school, he made the difficult decision to leave Atlanta and his mother to find a community that provided more educational resources and support for people of color. When he was 16 years old, Ivan moved to Seattle to live with a friend of his mother.

Ivan excelled as a student, his dedication and persistence driven by the desire to make his family proud and the belief that by working hard he might be the first in his family to attend college. (Neither his two older brothers nor his mom graduated from high school.) In 2014, he broke through that barrier by receiving both the Reita Cruz and Edward W. Stimpson scholarships for aspiring engineers through Seattle Foundation. He now attends UW with an intended major in aerospace engineering. If all goes well, he will graduate by 2018.

In his freshman year, Ivan was a member of the “Design Build Fly” team, which went on to compete at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics competition in Arizona earlier this year. Working with fellow students, he helped build an airplane that could complete three tasks (such as dropping Wiffle Balls in a basket from a predetermined altitude) at high speed.

Now a sophomore, Ivan uses words like “peachy” with a sly smile that quickly captures the hearts of those who meet him. He says his mother, who is of Japanese descent, taught him the importance a strong work ethic—and a sense of humor. When she visited him in Seattle for the first time, he prepared a meal for her to demonstrate how much he had grown. “Mom, I can cook as well as you now!” he joked.

Ivan is embracing his time at UW. He is confident there is a greater purpose for his move. He says he appreciates living in the Seattle community where diversity is embraced but often feels frustrated when people talk about issues without taking action. This spurs his passion for political and social advocacy. Through the scholarships he received from Seattle Foundation, he is now able to study rocket propulsion engines and discover more efficient ways to use energy. He plans to combine his interest in aeronautical engineering with his interest in the environment to help change the world.

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