May is AAPI Heritage Month in the US ((Credit: David Perry/ US Air Force/ Public Domain)

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in the United States (US). The month-long celebration recognizes the historical and cultural contributions of the AAPI community. The broad term includes 50 ethnic groups that speak over 100 languages. They have roots in more than 40 countries. These include China, India, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea.

May was chosen because of two significant events. The first Japanese immigrants came to the US on May 7, 1843. Additionally, the transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869. Chinese immigrants made up a large portion of the workforce that laid the tracks.

This year's theme is "Advancing Leaders Through Innovation." Meet three of the many AAPI trailblazers who have paved the way for others in their fields.

Dr. Ashok Gadgil

Dr. Ashok Gadgil is an Indian-American inventor and scientist. He is best known for his innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems.

Among Dr. Gadgil's notable projects is the UV Waterworks. This low-cost, solar-powered water purification system uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria. It provides clean drinking water to millions of people worldwide. Dr. Gadgil also invented a fuel-efficient stove for refugees in Africa. The device has helped thousands of displaced residents in Sudan and other African countries.

Dr. Chieko Asakawa

Dr. Chieko Asakawa is a Japanese computer scientist. Blind since she was 14, she has been at the forefront of developing technology to help visually impaired computer users. Her many innovations include digital braille and the home page reader. This web-to-speech system enables visually impaired users to navigate the Internet.

Ieoh Ming Pei

Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei has made a lasting impact on the world of architecture. During his seven-decade-long career, Pei designed some of the most iconic buildings in the world. Among the most famous is the Louvre Pyramid. The stunning glass and metal structure serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Pei also created the 72-story Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. Designed to resemble growing bamboo shoots, it has become a distinctive feature of Hong Kong's skyline.

Pei died in 2019 at the ripe old age of 102. However, his legacy continues to inspire and influence architects, designers, and artists worldwide.

Happy AAPI Heritage Month!