Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Stefanya Jaramillo, Student, Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia
At age 16 Stefanya Jaramillo learned the basics of Java programming in high school. At 18, she is studying astronomy at Colombia’s Antioquia University.
Competing against thousands, Jaramillo in 2020 became one of only 60 admitted to the Astronomy program of the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences. Her goal is to become a distinguished woman in the global community of space scientists. It was mathematics that put her on the quest to understand the universe.
Jaramillo was born to a family of poultry farmers in the rural township of El Tablazo, Antioquia province, 27 kilometers from Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city. From an early age the future astronomy undergraduate felt the urge to establish a ‘life project’ that would take her beyond the limitations of El Tablazo.
Where did her passion for space come from and how did computer programming play a part?
Oracle Academy: Can you tell us about your path from Java to the stars?
Stefanya Jaramillo: It started in 11th grade at the secondary school in my township. I was lucky enough to take math with a teacher who integrated programming into the course. It changed my life. Professor Bedoya taught us Getting Started with Java using Alice and I loved it. I had great fun creating animated 3D adventures and, with an amateur ballerina classmate, we used Alice to program the rhythms of dance.
It was thanks to Alice that I saw problem solving as the common denominator in math and programming. That discovery made me realize something else – that computer programming is the link between our imagination and the virtual world. It came to me that we need programmers to create solutions that will make the world a better place; but I did not know this before.
Oracle Academy: Were you always interested in programming?
Stefanya Jaramillo: Not at all! When I first made my life project it was languages that interested me. I imagined myself as an important woman travelling the world, speaking English and other languages. But in the math class I learned how algorithms bring people’s creative thoughts to life, make real what starts in the mind. I understood that computer programming brings to fruition mankind’s greatest asset, the imagination.
Oracle Academy: And how did this lead you to Astronomy?
Stefanya Jaramillo: Our professor, Luis Armando Bedoya, entered us into an innovation contest called InnovAntioquia with a project called Mathematics & Programming. Using Alice, it showed the relationship between computer science skills and math. We won a cash prize and with the money bought a telescope. That telescope was the trigger for my future career. One look at the stars and we were bewitched! Again at the suggestion of our teacher, a number of us formed the Astronomy Club. That led us to visit the planetarium in Medellin, be amazed by the full moon in close-up, and afterwards participate in the National Astronomy Olympics. None of this would have happened without Alice!
Oracle Academy: Is that what got you thinking about Astronomy instead of languages?
Stefanya Jaramillo: Well, the language fixation faded away already in math when I realized I was good at numbers, and logic. The telescope opened for me vistas of the boundless number of things yet to be discovered. I became aware of space research. As a recent example, the Mars Rover landings to explore potential life on that planet, is part of the never-ending advance in astronomy. All these breakthroughs were created by technology and programming. I wanted to be part of that.
Oracle Academy: How did you get into the prestigious astronomy track?
Stefanya Jaramillo: I was fortunate that Antioquia University, the only university in Colombia to offer Astronomy, lies not far from El Tablazo. Of course, with 7,000 after a place in astronomy the entrance exam was tough. But my Alice experience through Oracle Academy helped me through because an exam, to a certain extent, is an exercise in logic. And that’s what Professor Bedoya’s Java programming classes gave me: logic. Naturally I had to study hard for the subject in question and I was as tenacious as could be. I was also infected with my teacher’s energy and I’m sure his contagious enthusiasm helped me succeed. You can’t imagine the thrill when I got the results!
Oracle Academy: To what extent will programming be part of the astronomy studies?
Stefanya Jaramillo: Although technology underpins everything connected to space research, programming as such is not a big part of the course. However, in our first year we do have a course in Computational Basics. In this subject, each of us must present a programming project applicable to real life. I am still pondering how to go about it. But for sure, if I had not had the Java Fundamentals experience from high school, I would be a little bit lost!
Oracle Academy: Good luck! And finally, you have a passion for women’s advancement and recognition – can you tell us about that?
Stefanya Jaramillo: My goal is now to become a leading woman in science and work with others to promote the role of women in this discipline. Woman are capable of unimaginable, gigantic things. They are so much more talented than people believe, have so much to give yet have been consistently downgraded throughout history. We can be scientists and magnificent in what we do.
I will work to make sure that nothing will prevent the many women I know and the women I will know in the future from standing out in all their potential!
Thank you, Stefanya Jaramillo, for sharing your passion with Oracle Academy.