Ximena Prugue started Giving the Green Light to India when she was just 17 years old. She and a friend distributed 250 solar powered lights to three villages in India, where energy poverty is a major issue. The experience made her realize the impact that technology could have on the world’s problems and inspired her to pursue mechanical engineering. She shared with the TEDxFIU crowd in 2012 that she was on a break from the organization to focus on her studies and engineering.

Prugue graduated from FIU with a mechanical engineering degree this August and recently moved to California, where she is an associate mechanical engineer at Giro Sport Design, one of the largest cycling helmet companies in the world.

“I’m an avid cyclist myself, so this is actually a dream job for me,” says Prugue. “It kind of reminds me of my experience with Giving the Green Light because I didn’t know anyone in the cycling industry, I didn’t come from an Ivy League or a California school. I didn’t have any professional experience or internships with anything even remotely related to bikes. I just put myself out there and applied directly through the company, not a job board, and got the job.”

Energy poverty is still on her radar, however, and on others’ as well. Light emitting diode, or LED, technology has improved immensely in recent years. Now nearly 28.5 million people in developing Africa now use solar-powered LED lights; that’s nearly 5 percent of Africans without access to electricity, up from just 1 percent five years ago.

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Prugue at the Giro Sports Design office in 2014.

Prugue was inspired by Giving the Green Light to India to change majors so that she could engineer products to help those in need. Though her job has changed, her goal has not.

“It’s hard to tell where I’ll be in the next five years, but I know that I still want to be an engineer that makes products that make a positive difference in the world.” she says.