2nd Annual Code For Princeton Hackathon– 1st Place Experience

This is my 2nd Code For Princeton hackathon and I must say that I feel that I’ve come a long way since the first one in June 2015.

My intention this time around was very clear. I wanted to get more people of my age involved and exposed to the hackathon community and I was able to do this through Techsters.

Techsters is a student-driven technology club that exposes middle schoolers to the power and potential of technology with hands-on activities and interactive guest-speaker sessions. We are continuing the conversation on our Instagram (@techsters_ums), Twitter (@gotechsters) and Blog (www.thetechsters.wordpress.com).

We decided to undergo a project called “QuikStop” derived from the idea of kids missing their designated school buses by seconds. The app would allow a bus driver and a student to have instant and non-distracting contact with each other. Our team included: Venkat Cherukupalli, Shawn Krishnan, Samyuktha Chandresekar, Sara Arastu, Sanjana Jagadish Bharath, Mitali Chowdhury, Arnav Dashaputra and myself.

From the previous hackathon, the team that I was part of was made up of different people from whom I’d worked with earlier. However, this time around, I wanted to make the ratio of girls much more than it was in the times before.

I consider myself as an ambassador for Girls In STEAM. This is why Techsters is a place that encourages girls to speak up and get involved as well as exposing them to other aspects of the STEAM field.

Winning first place for our team and I was a total surprise and a complete “YAY!” moment. I was especially pleased as Team Lead that the people I had invited to come for the first time had such a positive and encouraging experience and are now asking me when the next one will be!

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Ms. Claire. Without her foresight and commitment there would never have been a Code For Princeton brigade. She was really encouraging to a bunch of 7th graders getting involved in their first hackathon. Thank you again and wishing you all the best your move to California!

Lastly, I want to also thank Princeton Public Library. I love this library and how it’s always there to support the community and technical advances!

Hack Millburn High School– A Major League Hacking Event

On Saturday, May 21st through until May 22nd Millburn Highschool hosted an overnight hackathon. It was Major League Hacking Event that had an amazing atmosphere! The opening ceremony kicked off the event with motivation and inspiration from keynote speaker Stephen Yang and his presentation about entrepreneurship and startups.

Then, we began with the overflow of insightful workshops. Some of my favourites that I attended throughout my stay included: Intro to Github, Intro to Java, Women Hackers Meetup and Entrepreneurship. They were great opportunities to network with people who have similar interests as you and to brainstorm ideas for future hackathon projects.

Another great privilege we were granted was renting nifty gadgets. For instance, we rented Amazon Echo, Leap Motion, Arduinos and others rented several other cool tech.

I came to the hackathon as part of a team of five boys. We all experience in common programming languages and were excited to pull an allnighter (which didn’t end up happening). We brainstormed Utinerary. A web app the utilises efficient services such as Yelp and Meetup along with your previous decisions to lead you to an interesting event near by. The special characteristic about our application is that it specifies to YOU, so YOU make the most out of your vacation to a foreign country or even your road trip to the city.

There were many breathtaking and complex projects being build around us, simultaneously. For instance, the man across from us was building a 3D printer from scratch. Another team from our school was building an ecology app and a team even made VR ski ball using the HTC Vive! Absolutely incredible and an experience that was totally worth two hours of sleep 🙂

MAGIC Final Presentations

More Active Girls In Computing is a non for profit that pairs interested girls who are seriously considering STEM as their career path, with mentors who are professionals in the topic that most interests the mentee. Their goal is to give young girls like me, the tools and knowledge to be successful in what we’re passionate about.

During my program experience, I worked on one project with my mentor, Ms. Deepa Kalkunte who is a Technology Manager at Wells Fargo. She shared information about her position and taught me about engineering, databases, programming as well as current and innovative technological advancements.

At the end of the program’s season, all of the east-coast mentees and mentors came together at Harvard Business School to share what we worked on, what we gained and a demonstration of our piece. Here is a little bit about the projects that were presented:

Gayathri Nandyalam– A genetics analysis project that observes the likelihood of ADHD in a Tuscan region compared to a Nigerian region. Gayathri imported HapMap’s data and inserted it into two arrays: Ids and Genomes. She then prompted the python code to read the data and then imported graph visualisers to create both a bar and heat map. The heat map showed that in Nigerian region, ADHD is most prevalent.

Anvitha Veeragandham– Anvitha’s project’s goal was to teach users about the human body and brain with her app that she made with MIT App Inventor. She even incorporated quizzes that tested your knowledge about the information that was taught to you through the app. However, one challenge she faced was not being able to locate specific examples for MIT App Inventor’s block system. Despite the difficulties, she created a wonderful and fully-functioning application!

Sruthi Kurada– Her project was fun and complex. It was a game of battleship that had both single and multi player modes. Furthermore, the gaming interface would let us know about how many turns we had remaining and gave the option of playing again after notifying you about if you won or lost. She did this in python, with several if/else statements and by setting the number of turns the player decides to have, as a variable.

Iccha Singh– My project utilised both hardware and software. Hardware being a Raspberry Pi, two-channel relay, male to female jumper wires and LED strip. On the other hand, the software included an Apache web server, python code and php code. My project allows for me to pull up a php user interface on a browser using my Raspberry Pi’s IP Address and once I press the ‘Light On’ button, it links to my python code that turns the LED strip on. This code communicates with GPIO Pin 7 on the Pi, and either allows or blocks the current from passing through to activate/deactivate the strip. Now, I can turn on and off my lights with a click of a button, which demonstrates the Internet of Things!

Evidently, each mentee focused on different topics of interest. This shows how vast the STEM field really is, and how technology plays a part in everything!

As the world is advancing rapidly, the environment is deteriorating at the same pace. As millionaires get richer, the poor continue to earn less. As we eat luxuriously, 15.3 million children under 18 don’t have consistent access to nutritious food, in the United States. However, proven by prosthetics that are controlled via your thoughts and fusion power, technology can solve these problems. So, let us girls, with the creative, calibrated ideas, strong work-ethic, impeccable sense of style and big hearts, show the world what we can do to better the place we live, breathe and code in.

Thank you to the president of the board of directors of GetMagic Corporation Ms. Pramanick and my mentor, Ms. Deepa, for giving me the opportunity to delve into the Engineering and Technology aspects of STEM. This opportunity has motivated me to tinker, program, design and experiment further!

 

My Take on Feminism

In the twenty-first century, the word “Feminist” as well as “Feminism” comes up a lot. Many people believe that the title of a Feminist should be given to females only. However, Feminism is the “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). Women’s rights are Human rights therefore, a man can be just as much of a Feminist as a woman may be. Anyone who believes in equality for all, is a Feminist.

I follow the religion Sikhism. We believe in one God who we call ‘Waheguru’ and we pray to our living guru which is the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Recently, I was enlightened by Miss Sukhjit Kaur. She expresses her passion for the Sikh religion through her powerful and creative poems. She is from Australia, has performed on Australia’s Got Talent and is now traveling the world to spread her messages of inspiration and motivation. She shines light on how Sikhs stand out in the community and also how that causes us to be a target for discrimination.This is much like the problem women may be facing. We get treated as a minority. While there has been research done to prove that women and men have the same brain types, we still get underpaid in the identical position as men are is in. Our first guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji said “Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to kings? The woman is born from woman; there is none without her.” Sikhs believe in equality.  Miss Sukhjit points out our differences, but tells us why we should be proud of them. Women have just as much and maybe even more strength than men. Sikhs aren’t terrorists so they shouldn’t be treated like them.The turban is a sign of loyalty, trust and it represents an individual who protects and cultivates the Sikh community. Whether you’re a king or a proper you will sit with your legs crossed on the floor, eating the same food that the other caste is eating during Langar (free kitchen hosted by the sikh temple). It’s great to see similar steps to eradicate discriminatory behaviour towards women, taking place around the world.

I piloted Techsters with girls in mind. By offering a platform that encourages girls to be heard makes them more confident to speak up. We want them to be just as”bossy” as boys who claim to be awesome leaders. We want them to get their hands dirty, experiment, brainstorm and come to conclusions whilst being surrounded by girls and boys that are ready to collaborate!

These are some of my favorite initiatives that are making women just as notable as men, in society:

  • He For She: Pointing out that gender equality is a human rights issue (getting men involved too) and voicing every perspective to help push the movement forward!

Additionally, these are some recent issues regarding gender equality:

  • An Indian shrine is now open to women
  • New $20 bill in honour of Harriet Tubman (African American Union spy during the Civil War) and new faces to come!
  • Kylie Jenner on Feminism: “I do consider myself a feminist,” she said. “I’m a young woman, for one thing, and I don’t depend on a man or anybody else. I make my own money and start my own businesses, and I feel like I’m an inspiration for a lot of young girls who want to stand on their own.” Glamour Magazine, June cover
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Miss Sukhjit Kaur and myself at a recent event.

Attending Obscura Day at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab

I visited the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab and learned all about their mission to use Fusion (combining the nucleus) as our new energy source.

Firstly, what is fusion? It is when two positively charged nuclei come close enough to chemically bond and form a hydrogen atom. If atoms such as hydrogen fuse together, they can emit energy.

In this project you’re working with plasma (the fourth state of matter), the thing found in the Sun and fluorescent lightbulbs. Therefore, when put into a container, the pressure of the air around the plasma differs compared to the air close to the wall of the container. Therefore, it forms its own gradient, pushing the plasma outwards. However, the electromagnetic forces put on the inside of the vessel are pushing it to the core, where fusion can occur and the plasma can be controlled. If it hit the wall, it’d blow up since the container is heated to over 1,000,000,000 degrees Celsius. This temperature converts the hydrogen gas into hydrogen plasma. The container is made up of lithium, which has a high melting point and isn’t reactive with hydrogen. This idea is  based off of the sun utlizing gravity to get the nuclei hot and close enough to begin fusion.

The tokamak (donut shaped, symmetrical fusion reactor) NSTX-U is what the scientists are experimenting with as of now. However, they are also several other initiatives such as the french tokamak: ITER, which can run for 24 hours and can run off of a lot of hydrogen gas at once. This is different to tokamak NSTX-U since it can only run for about 15 minutes and has to continuously get injected with small puffs of air.

So why is it important? Fusion relies on our seawater, since hydrogen isotopes can be found there! Additionally, this would be a huge step in making our planet a cleaner, greener place as we’re changing the way we power our lives. Instead of polluting our air, we would be making a move for the better and reincarnating our planet. The Princeton Plasma Physics Lab seems confident that they will achieve fusion power and we should all be supporting their mission!20160416_110258.jpg

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Google Plus Community

Hi all Techsters members,

Even if you attended Techsters, even once, throughout our second season, please request to join our Google Plus Community so we can keep the conversation going. Many of you suggested that Techsters should’ve been longer than 11 weeks and this is how we can extend the season! Please join and tell your like-minded friends to do the same, so we can brainstorm, get informed and go to events together! Here is the link: https://plus.google.com/u/1/communities/104668045789764849431

Excited to accept your requests to join our community 🙂

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The Last Meeting of The 2016 Season

On March 22nd, the 2016 Techsters season came to a close. However, our wrap up session was filled with fun, food and ideas for the future! We rounded everybody up to discuss their thoughts about the season. What did you like most? What interested you the least? How would you change it if you were running Techsters? We got an array of answers that got us all thinking about the next steps. The members seemed to enjoy these the most:

The members liked these things because the people they listened to were credible and an inspiration. Additionally, in these sessions they got to try things out for themselves and experiment with their own ideas.

Some feedback to help us improve included:

  • Add split guest-speaker meetings where the members who are interested in one of the experts, can listen to that individual. It would allow the members to swap around and fit more into the sessions.
  • Extend the season to more than eleven weeks, and possibly 1.5 hour meetings insetad of 60 minutes.
  • Immerse the members into specific coding languages with workshops
  • Find a (couple) problem(s) that the group wanted to solve and work up to that project with help from professionals along the way. This would include coding, marketing, etc; It would also require consistent and some at-home work

These are only some of the great ideas and thoughts that we discussed during our last meeting while chewing on pizza and brownies 🙂

Overall, I thank everybody, especially Mrs. Markmann (Techsters Advisor), Mr. Delgado (UMS Principal) and UMS for supporting Techsters throughout our journey. It has been SO much fun as we all explored all aspects STEAM and much more! I can’t wait to see what’s next and to work with you all. again!!

Continue to check the InstagramTwitter and get involved with our new Google Plus community as we keep the conversation going 🙂

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CodeGirl Screening & Discussion At The Princeton Public Library

On March 18th, the Princeton Public Library screened a popular documentary named CodeGirl, at 6:30pm. The documentary was 1 hour and 30 minutes filled with inspiration, anticipation and lots of information! Throughout the screening, it took the audience through the process that high school girls experienced as they enrolled in the Technovation Challenge of 2015. From 444 teams, it boiled down to only 6 finalists who competed in California after 3 months of preparation. The challenge’s objective was to brainstorm an idea for an app, form a business plan and film a pitch video. Therefore giving the girls experience in computer science, entrepreneurship, collaboration, public speaking and so many more skills needed for the real-world. Furthermore, teams from Nigeria, India, Brasil and the US made it to the final competition! I won’t be a spoiler, but I will tell you that watching until the end is completely worthwhile!

After the documentary came to a close, representatives from Stuart Country Day School, Code For Princeton and Techsters, that I represented, were part of a panel. We were moderated by the Techsters advisor, Mrs. Violet Markmann, who posed frequently asked questions about Girls In STEAM. The question from an audience member that related to me the most was: How can you be less intimidated when entering this field if you’re not a coder? Since I was in this position a little while back, my answer was: Realizing that STEAM is such a vast field with so many things to try out.. So if you’re not a coder that’s fine! Expose yourself to as much as possible and don’t be afraid to ask questions, because even the most advanced people started out like us (and they’re super nice!)

It was an amazing experience being on the panel and I would like to thank the Princeton Public Library, the others on the panel and my advisor, for enhancing these wonderful opportunities!

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Two Tech Entrepreneurs

Today we met Mr. Savraj Singh, Founder of WattVision and Mr. Mark Hall, CEO at G8Way Health. We wanted to talk to people combining their tech dreams, making them into a reality and sharing them with others… so I connected with two amazing entrepreneurs who were willing to share their knowledge with us!

We began with Mr. Savraj Singh who introduced himself by telling us a bit about his background. Fun fact: He was the fastest typer at The Lawrenceville School. His story included being a Project Manager at Microsoft and deciding to move on. He told us about his first joint startup that was unsuccessful and that he wasn’t passionate about it because it wasn’t something that really connected to him. He then moved onto WattVision! A company that lets you monitor your energy usage with handy visualisations.

Furthuremore, we discussed marketing techniques that branched off our previous session with Mrs. Tynicka Battle. Mr. Savraj gave us helpful hints which encompassed of: Working closely with your customers and making changes to your service accordingly. Additionally, Mr. Savraj had questions for us to answer, which made us think about potential ideas such as: Problems that need to be solved with tech. One awesome answer was: Alternatives for solar panel charging. From this session, we gathered that we came up with ideas that correlated to what we’ve experienced and care about making better.

A final wrap up story from Mr. Savraj Singh was the story about the pottery class that was split up into two groups. We concluded with the tip: Continue to try new things and keep practicing something so that soon, your product will be perfect by default! 🙂

And if you don’t think that’s enough, here’s more: Mr. Mark Hall also generously joined us on March 8th! He dove straight in and caught the members attention with an engaging activity.

The team thought about companies that we looked up to and wrote a couple on the board. We decided that GoldieBlox and Healthcare were our top two contenders. Furthermore, we branched off of these companies and thought of new company ideas! The members went through the entire process, which comprised of: Naming the companies, describing them in detail and then splitting up the job into several small tasks assigned to roles. One key role that we all decided on was a developer, which would be important for almost every company to have (coding is the future). We even tied in some of the skills that were absorbed from Mr. Savraj’s presentation regarding ways to start up, by mentioning Kickstarter and Y Combinator!

Overall, it was a really informative and interactive session and we can’t thank our guest speakers enough! The second Techsters season is wrapping up so make sure to squeeze in all the fun during the next two sessions on March 15th and the 22nd!