SGAC Announces the Winners of the 2023 NCAC-SLA Competition

Embracing diversity is the cornerstone of SGAC’s principles. The goal of the North, Central American and Caribbeans Space Leaders Award is to provide an opportunity for interaction between members of the space sector with diverse geographic and professional backgrounds. SGAC is pleased to announce Sheily Sapeg, Emma Belhadfa and Gustavo Fonseca-Naranjo as the winners of the 2023 North, Central American and Caribbeans Space Leader Award. The winners will be sponsored to attend the 4th North, Central American and Caribbeans Space Generation Workshop to be held on September 9th-10th 2023, in San José, Costa Rica.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Sheily Sapeg (Dominican Republic)

Sheily Sapeg is a 19 years old passionate activist for aerospace education in the Dominican Republic that advocates for female participation in technology and aerospace arenas. She studied at the Polytechnic “Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro” of the Dominican Republic Air Force (FARD) and graduated with the Highest academic excellence in Aeronautical Maintenance Technician. She is doing a Master’s Program in Space Entrepreneurship at the European Institute of Innovation for Sustainability (EIIS) in partnership with Airbus. In 2021, she received the Recognition as Maximum Level Established in Academic Excellence granted by (CESAC). She was a Board Member and Youth Coordinator for the International “Youth of the Future Network” in Latin America and is currently a member of the Space4Women program created by (UNOOSA), a member of the (UNESCO) Dominican Republic Youth Club, and a Community Leader at She Is The Universe. Sheily is the founder of ¨Educacion en Orbita¨ Dominican Non-profit Association dedicated to education, diffusion, and inclusion in aeronautical and space affairs, to support the participation of young people in the aerospace area, and turning the Dominican Republic into a leading country, providing access to all.

“Access to space begins with knowledge about space. I am humbly grateful to the SGAC team for this opportunity of recognition in the region that motivates me to continue my journey of advocacy for youth inclusion in the aerospace sector.”

Emma Belhadfa (Canada)

Emma is a fourth year student at the University of Toronto, double majoring in Aerospace Engineering and Fine Art History, with a minor in Robotics. She has been active in the Canadian aerospace industry, with internships at the Canadian Space Agency and MDA. She has worked closely to develop Canadian capabilities for lunar rovers, designing mission plans and instrument concepts. Emma has been a member of SGAC since 2021, where she led two projects within the Small Satellite Project Group before recently becoming the co-chair of the Planetary Science Committee of the Space Exploration Project Group.

“I am thrilled to join other young space enthusiasts in Costa Rica! I look forward to learning from others across North America and am honoured to represent Canada.”

Gustavo Fonseca-Naranjo (Costa Rica)

Gustavo Fonseca Naranjo, a Costa Rican born in the Caribbean region, discovered his passion for aeroplanes at an early age while working in rural banana plantations. Inspired to become a spacecraft engineer, he joined aerospace organizations and served on the board of the Central American Association for Aeronautics and Space. During his tenure, he collaborated with the Costa Rica Institute of Technology to successfully launch the first Central American satellite, the Irazu Project. As one of the founding members of the University of Costa Rica’s aerospace group, he organized space camps and congresses to educate people in amateur rocketry, leading to international rocketry certifications. Gustavo has contributed to diverse scientific research on remote sensing and proposed CubeSat satellites for global red tide monitoring. With over six scientific publications presented at various space conferences, he holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering from the University of Costa Rica. He also participated in the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program at the International Space University in 2016. With nearly a decade of engineering experience in manufacturing and project management, he currently resides in the United States, working for a neurovascular medical device company, designing and developing life-saving devices for brain arterial diseases.

“SGAC has truly transformed my life. It has been an organization that taught me to dream and showed me that this space world was also for me and for people in my region. Receiving this award is a tremendous honour for me. However, it also comes with a leadership responsibility I am eager to embrace. I want to contribute to the organisation’s growth in our region and help more individuals dream big, just as SGAC supported me when I first started.”