Southside High School junior Tonantzin “Toni” Ruiz is only 16 years old, but the school’s student council president is already engaging in extremely high-tech research. Ruiz is working on autonomous driving using artificial intelligence on a self-driving remote controlled car. Her project is funded through the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program. Ruiz has always been at the top of her class nearly all of her life. Her resume is impressive. Student council president in elementary, middle school, and high school. First in band. First in art. Now, the first Southside ISD student engaged in Department of Defense research. “It just shows that as future leaders at Southside, we’re out there in the middle of nowhere and we still want to do stuff and take initiative and be there for our community,” she said. The Southside standout is part of the GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science) program at the University of the Incarnate Word. UIW Engineering professor Dr. Michael Frye said Ruiz is working on actual research the U.S. Army will apply to its projects. Frye says Ruiz has a natural curiosity and persistence; a trait he see’s common among Southside ISD students. “”What I’m hoping Toni will do is that she goes to some four-year college, picks an engineering degree and immediately gets picked up by a research professor, works in a lab, and then goes and gets her Ph.D. That’s my dream. I would love to see Toni do that,” said Frye. Ruiz said she loves the idea of becoming “Dr. Tonantzin Ruiz” and is planning for the future. “That would be really cool. I was planning on going to UT-Austin in their engineering program and I’m planning on getting my master’s degree,” she said.