Student Spotlight — Tessa Uviedo


Hands madly gesticulating some concept only us three understand, felt markers scribbling some cryptic diagram of a robot (with the complaint that the diagram is not neat enough), SET, the robotics team consisting of me, Elle, and Tessa, was some of my most memorable moments both at Keystone and with Tessa. Together, our team would analyze a robotics manual every year, identify loopholes, and build the wildest Lego robot with minimal pieces. From a lentil cannon to a weeble wobble with a straw taped onto it, through our time in robotics with Tessa, I got to experience and appreciate her creativity, flexibility, and organization to take home four first-place trophies and plaques throughout our Keystone careers.

Throughout her high school career, Tessa has pursued STEM-related activities, specifically physics and engineering-related activities and biology and medical-related activities. Her journey in physics starts with the Prefreshman Engineering Program (PrEP), a rigorous summer program where she continued math throughout the summer and learned basic engineering principles. From this program, Tessa was introduced to the Lunar Caves Analog Test Site (LCATS), a NASA-funded program focused on space and caves, with the ultimate goal of training middle and high school students to explore if people could inhabit caves on the moon. Tessa, in fact, was part of the very first cohort of LCATS, and she fondly relates the various activities the three-year-long program offered. In her first year, she worked towards launching a high-altitude air balloon. Furthermore, she explored Cave Lane, a non-commercialized cave under a neighborhood under Alamo Heights. Due to it not being commercialized, Tessa fondly recalls crawling through the holes to enter the warm and humid cave. Her second year concluded with building Lego robots to enter and explore caves, simulated by holes. Finally, in her third year, Tessa learned the basics of computer-aided design (CAD) using Solidworks; however, due to the pandemic, the program did not have a final project. 

While the majority of her exploration of engineering occurred in late middle school and early high school, she most recently got the opportunity to intern at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in the mechanical engineering department. While she was looking for internships through SA Works, she matched with being a STEM intern for SwRI, working half a day every day for eight weeks during the summer. She found it fascinating that her coworkers were involved with real science that she heard about in the news; in fact, the person who gave her a tour was part of the team which figured out what caused the Colombia Disaster to occur. 

Team SET Winning 1st at the TCEA 2020 Competition

While she thoroughly enjoyed her time exploring engineering, Tessa’s true passion lies in biology. In her junior year, Tessa was nominated as a candidate for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Student of the Year program, in which students are trained to learn how to raise money for the organization to fund cancer research. To compete, Tessa assembled a small team of roughly ten people, consisting of friends in and out of school, to reach out to people asking for donations. One of the biggest projects she worked on during LLS was using Keystone’s Valentine’s Day as a fundraiser. At the time, the school knew prom was not going to occur due to the pandemic, and there was a conversation about donating the Valentine’s Day money, and this just happened to coincide with the fundraiser. Tessa saw it as a perfect opportunity to get in touch with the Keystone community, and she was pleasantly surprised at the community’s effort to raise money for the cause, ultimately contributing over $3,000. 

As Tessa creates phenomenal projects in her community, she also is actively working to provide support to other students in the community with high aspirations through the Our Tomorrow Youth Grant Committee. Through this program, high school students receive grant applications from other high school students and review whether they align with the cause of Our Tomorrow, the overarching nonprofit, and elevate youth voice. Once the project ideas are approved by the committee, they give the students $2,000-$3,000 and occasionally check in on the student. Even if the student does not receive the grant, the committee offers them constructive feedback to help the students expand their project idea. Overall, Tessa finds this opportunity to be truly inspiring, as it shows that high school students can be fiscally responsible and can implement creative and impactful projects, tackling problems from food insecurity to negative stigmas around mental health and menstruation. 

At school, Tessa is also actively involved in a myriad of activities, from basketball to science bowl to quiz bowl. In basketball, Tessa plays the role of point guard and wing and has played with Keystone’s team since 7th grade. She fondly recalls making the regional playoffs in freshman and sophomore years and bonding with the team. As the senior with the most experience on the team this year, she hopes she helped the underclassmen through her leadership and experience. Additionally, Tessa has competed in Science and Quiz Bowl junior and senior years. In Quiz Bowl, she enjoys answering science questions, and in Science Bowl, she focuses on chemistry and biology questions.

Team Tessa from the Student of the Year Campaign

When not working on her numerous activities and projects to make the world a better place, Tessa loves listening to music (competitively), exploring various boba flavors, and speedcubing. While Tessa has always loved listening to music and creating Spotify playlists, she has recently been introduced to .fm bot, a Discord bot that allows her and her friends to compete to see who listens to artists the most for the coveted virtual “crown.” And, if she’s not feeling like listening to Spotify, Tessa now has a vinyl player with three Taylor Swift albums. And, what better couples Taylor Swift than boba? When relaxing with her friends, Tessa often orders from various local boba shops, trying various concoctions of tea and tapioca. As of now, Tessa has deemed peach green tea with peach boba to be one of the best flavors in existence. 

Furthermore, ever since 6th grade, Tessa has been obsessed with Rubik’s cubes. She recalls learning that solving the cubes became popular in middle school, but instead of randomly turning the cubes, Tessa learned the algorithms behind them and began consistently solving the cubes within a minute. Her most recent endeavor is solving a mirror cube, in which all the pieces are the same color but have different sizes. 

In the final quarter of her senior year and her time at Keystone, Tessa looks forward to progressing to university, interested in pursuing biology and possibly attending pharmacy school but planning to keep an open mind. Her advice to high school students is to simply get involved. While it will help with college, what people get involved with is what they will remember most and will enjoy. Finally, she encourages everyone to enjoy the high school experience and spend lots of time with friends, as with the pandemic, high school seemed to speed by.

As Tessa moves on to university, I know she will continue to create lasting impacts wherever she goes. Her dedication, persistence, and passion in everything she pursues shine brightly, and no matter where the journey of life takes her, I am certain that she will be successful.