Former Queensborough Community College student Màteo Sàenz, ‘19, Scientist, Entrepreneur and Innovator, is on a Mission to Change the World. Sàenz became interested in bamboo after learning (on a TED Talk) how it was used to construct innovative, retractable houses.
“I was intrigued by these naturally sourced structures,” said Sàenz, originally from the foothills of Quito, Ecuador. So, he went to learn more in Bali, Indonesia, where graceful bamboo architecture, perfect for its tropical climate, is popular.
He applied for and was awarded a scholarship (funded by Kenzo X U Parfums) Scholarship. One of 10 selected from more than 1000 applicants, Sàenz joined the Comprehensive Build and Design course at what is known as Bamboo U.
“I learned that bamboo reduces carbon in the air, offers economic opportunities, is sustainable and provides shelter for people who lost their houses due to natural disasters.”
He built his first lightweight, foldable prototype of a bamboo house, working alongside the most talented bamboo crafts people in the world. Sàenz says his goal is to “bring bamboo huts to the states and deploy hospitals anywhere in the world.”
The roots of Sàenz’s passion for bamboo houses and for many of his remarkable achievements began at Queensborough where he enrolled in the fall of 2017 to major in Biotechnology.
“Queensborough was a great launching pad for my academic career,” said the Suffolk County resident.
“I did scientific research at Queensborough my first week, which is unheard of at other colleges, including several CUNY colleges, and presented my findings at 12 different conferences, all within my first year. I was encouraged to explore my interests and, in my last semester, discovered the College’s advanced 3D lab which uses sophisticated equipment most companies in the world don’t even have. Most importantly, I received caring mentorship from Queensborough teachers like Michael Lawrence in Engineering Technology and Christine Mooney in Business to push forward toward excellence.”
Sàenz also participated in Queensborough’s entrepreneurship programming. He won the fall 2018 CUNY Innovation Challenge with Eagle-I, a bladeless drone he developed to improve surveillance capabilities. He created a prototype using the Engineering Technology lab with the support of Lawrence.
Currently, Sàenz is attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice where he is taking one on-campus class, including a lab, in cell and molecular biology. Since summer 2020 he has been a Peer Success Coach there with Student Academic Success Program (SASP).
“This program has really opened my eyes to the incredibly challenging times many students are facing, including homelessness, health crises or food insecurity. Yet, these same students are among the most creative and resilient people I’ve ever met. They find ways to stay strong and get their degrees.”
When Sàenz isn’t serving as a Peer Success Coach or studying in the lab at John Jay, he is training to be a paramedic at Stony Brook University in Suffolk County. He plans to graduate from Stony Brook and John Jay next spring.
Sàenz is intensely curious and determined to make a difference. He is never too busy to get involved, take on another project or learn a new skill.
These last two months he hosted a virtual medical and health science camp for over 300 students in the Virgin Islands and then branched off for an entrepreneurial young CEO (Chief Executive Officer) camp, to teach about media editing software and animation tools.
“My mission is to pool my knowledge in the fields of science and innovation to help people everywhere live a healthier, better quality of life.”