Leonardo Castro Sitiriche
Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?
I am a senior year mechanical engineering undergraduate student currently doing a minor in aerospace engineering and a second minor in atmospheric science and meteorology in the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. In the University my research has been in UAV's (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in the area of Structures, Design and Integration, and I am part of the UAV Search & Rescue Research Project Team, where we are designing and constructing a UAV for rapid deployment in Search & Rescue Missions of stranded persons in the ocean or in austere environments. Also, I was part of the New Venture Design Experience, a one year project focused on design thinking and product design using techniques based on User Centered Design. My team and I developed and prototyped a portable and affordable device to help students with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) to achieve better concentration levels and improve academic performance. Other classes and training I have taken include Solar Energy Applications and Design, Applied Aerodynamics, Gas Turbines, Advanced Aerospace Structures Design and Analysis, Industrial Welding, Remote Sensing, Meteorology, Astronomy, etc. Here on Nautilus, I work with ROV's Hercules and Argus. We service and repair the vehicles, we design and build custom parts for the ROVs. We launch, pilot and operate the ROV's to perform science missions and ocean research.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
Since I was a child, I had always been interested in science and questioning myself about how everything works. As I looked into the sky, into the ocean and the mountains, I dreamed about exploring the unknown and finding the mysteries of this beautiful planet and universe. I also was always constructing things in the garage of my house in Puerto Rico. As I grew older, I found the answer for some of my questions, but as I found them, more and more questions came along. In 2015 while I was doing a 6-month solo expedition crossing the African continent in a motorcycle I started to ask myself what is my real love and passion in life. I concluded that my real drive and passion in life is exploration, I'm an explorer.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
My mother always encouraged me to admire the beauty of nature and to be grateful for the world around me. My father inspired in me the spark and hunger for knowledge, to ask questions and search for answers. My brother Marcel inspired me to focus on goals and search and pursue short and long-term goals, and use your capabilities in pro of humanity.
What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?
To be able to use a state of the art submersible robot that can go 4000m down into the ocean to go places where no human has gone in the pursuit of knowledge, and use technology for the benefit of humanity. As we see the big Ocean and what lies underneath, we realize we are just a grain of salt in this sea.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
I have done many jobs and training. I was a Watercraft Engineer in the US Army for 5 years working on military landing craft, I am a certified scuba diver, I worked as a heavy equipment mechanic and operator for many years, I have worked as a welder, the classes in the university, and I a firm believer that everything that you learn will lead you to your path in this life. There is no wasted knowledge or skill.
What are your degrees and certifications?
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (IN PROCESS) - University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
Minor in Aerospace Engineering (IN PROCESS) - University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
Minor in Atmospheric Science and Meteorology - University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
Watercraft Engineer - US Army School of Transportation
US Coast Guard OUPV (Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels) 6-pack Course
Heavy Equipment Operator - US Army Engineering School
Combat Engineer Training - US Army Engineering School
Hazardous Materials License - US Department of Transportation (DOT)
CDL (Commercial Driving License) Tractor Trailer Driver License
Advanced Open Water II Scuba License - PDIC (Professional Diving Instructors Corporation)
Heartsaver First Aid CPR & AED (Automated External Defibrillator) - American Heart Association
Boat Operator License - NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators)
What are your hobbies?
I love the outdoors and extreme sports, also arts and music. I love flying and I'm a Licensed Paraglider Pilot and also a Paramotor (Powered Paragliding) Pilot. I love Scuba Diving, sailing, windsurfing, rock climbing, speleology (cave exploration), mountaineering, motorcycles, fencing, etc. I played charango (a native string instrument from Los Andes), guitar, Puerto Rican Cuatro, Darbuka, and Harmonica. I love films and theatre, and I work in the theatre and film industry as an actor and stuntman were I have performed in hundreds of films and plays as lead and supporting actor.
What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?
Do what you love and try to excel in everything you do big or small. Take every opportunity to learn something new, related or unrelated to what you do. Work hard every day. Treat everybody with respect and be humble. Ask yourself and others questions, challenge the status quo, improve yourself every day, dream and always smile, look around you, we can make this world a beautiful place.
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? how did you get on the ship?
In this senior year of my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering as I was getting close to graduation, I started looking for jobs that will let me use my skills and knowledge in the pursuit of science and exploration. I started searching the internet and found the ROV's. I googled "ROV Pilot Internship" and I found Nautilus and Ocean Exploration Trust ROV Engineering Intern Position. I applied to the Ocean Exploration Trust SEIP Program (Science and Engineering Internship Program), and my mind and spirit were already on the ship. I was stoked when I received the email that I was selected for the program.