Maria Parcak-Ruiz

Maria is named after Maria Teresa Ruiz, the first woman to study astronomy at University of Chile and the first woman to receive the Chilean National Award for Science. The fact that Maria’s last name is the same is just a coincidence.

Maria’s birth certificate

Because of the jobs Maria’s parents have, she has grown up surrounded by scientists, all kinds of technology, and, most importantly, the belief that nothing is impossible. But, having famous parents also means she has to, sometimes, spend a lot of time on her own. Sure her parents take her to work all the time, I mean they can’t help but do that when they live where they work! But, just because she’s there it doesn’t mean they can spend a lot of time with her.

Her father, Juan, is a senior scientist at the Giant Magellan Telescope located at the Las Campanas Observatory. He and his team developed a special camera called Four Shooter that can peer beyond the other side of a black hole. Four Shooter’s images showed previously unknown exoplanets with the potential of supporting human life.

Maria’s father’s web page about finding the exoplanets on the other side of a black hole.

Her mother, Sarah, an archaeologist, developed a mapping drone that can create a three-dimensional map of any terrain. AUG-E (Autonomous Under Ground Explorer) uses a self-contained propulsion system which allows it to hover above any type of surface. This type of propulsion would be perfect for mapping underground caves on far away planets, say, like the planets discovered by Maria’s father!

Sarah Parcak-Ruiz’s article about the mapping of a Lava cave using AUG-E the 3D mapping drone she designed.

Maria has mentioned before that it’s because of her parents love of science and their desire to make a difference in the world that she was able to recover so quickly from the loss of her right leg. Almost exactly one year ago, Maria severely damaged her right leg when she fell into a large crevice while exploring a cave with her good friend Lou, a Luecrocuta. Lou was able to pull her to safety, however, her leg was so badly hurt that it could not be saved. She wears a prosthetic replacement which has been recently upgraded with a titanium skin and advanced electronics.

Something else special about the Ruiz family is that they are all “Keepers”. They have the ability to talk to animals “inside their heads”. Maria is extra special due to the fact that she inherited the “Pure Blood Keeper” genes from both her parents making her a very rare Keeper.

Because she belongs to a very special group, she has been asked by Qbit to attend The Arcadia School for Keepers where she will learn more about how to communicate with different types of animals. Lou naturally has this ability plus he can speak human which makes him just as rare as Maria. Qbit has asked him to go to the school as well. Curly is going because Maria said she wouldn’t go anywhere without him (this earned her an extra high, high-five from Curly).

However, the team needed something more than an invitation from Qbit before they could go; permission from their parents! They were worried that their children were too young to go so far from home and wouldn’t be able to take care of themselves. So, they got together and created special challenges that Maria, Lou and Curly needed to complete in order to prove they were ready.

One of the challenges required them to work together to solve puzzles and riddles that would give them clues to the whereabouts of three small sculptures that had been hidden in various locations. It was the completion of this challenge that almost got them trapped in a cave but also earned them the right to go to Arcadia.

Science Technology Engineering Art Math

Maria Teresa Ruiz-

Giant Magellan Telescope-

3D printed hands for kids-

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