SOUTH GATE, CALIF. - MAY 29: Ismael Zenteno, 17, of South Gate, works on the shell of a hydrogen pow
Ismael Zenteno works on the shell of a hydrogen-powered car at STEAM Legacy High School./Kent Nishimura for Los Angeles Times.

When Principal Carla Barrera-Ortiz founded STEAM Legacy High School in Los Angeles, she set out to inspire more Latinx students to take an interest in science, technology, math, arts and engineering. She knew it wouldn’t happen overnight. 

STEAM Legacy High School students participate in the contest. Photo:

Most of her students come from low-income families and are immigrants or first-generation. 

Seven years later, nearly 600 students have enrolled at the school, and 98% of them are Latinx. Carla says it was her personal mission to bring change to the Los Angeles public school system because she saw her own child of immigrants dream reflected in her students. 

A car that participate in the Horizon contest. Photo:

She heard about an annual contest in Prague sponsored by Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies and Toyota to inspire aspiring auto engineers to find new uses for alternative fuels and encouraged her students to participate. 

To qualify, students had to create a car that uses fuel with limited batteries and turn hydrogen and oxygen into hydrogen gas to produce electricity that powers the car. 

Winners of the Horizon Grand Prix contest./

The 17-member team included freshman Andy Palomera, the “driver,” recent graduate Allan Gallardo, Guatemalan immigrant Edwin Mijangos and friends Nidia Ibarra and Jennifer Hernandez. 

These students are such an inspiration!