Junior Satvika Kumar’s non-profit organization, Learning Pathways Project (LPP), aims to reduce the gender gap in STEM education through the innovative development of learning tools and programs. LPP reached over 500 girls in 2014 and is off to a great start in 2015. Satvika (pictured, at right) attended the recent STEM Symposium to promote her group’s first major event, #firsthack, a hackathon for kids not yet in high school.
#firsthack, which will take place at Nysmith on Saturday, April 18th, will introduce young students (5th to 7th grade) to real-world programming challenges. Every student team will be paired with a high school student volunteer. By experiencing their first hackathon under the guidance of experienced, young mentors, #firsthack team members will learn the skills needed to create innovative solutions and to pitch their ideas, along the way gaining an understanding of how applied technology works and discovering exciting possibilities in CS.
Satvika got the idea to start an educational non-profit after receiving an Educational Enhancement Through Technology grant that she used to create an app prototype. She demonstrated the prototype at the June, 2013 JOSTI conference, an annual meeting TJ hosts for overseas educators (see BTS 2014 issue).
To use Satvika’s app, a student loads a list — for example, the multi-step processes involved in cellular respiration, learned in Biology — onto her phone. The app scrambles the list and prompts the student to order it under time pressure. By allowing students to conveniently review material whenever they have a few spare minutes, the app discourages cramming and encourages long-term retention.
Last spring, Satvika’s app won first place for her Congressional District in the inaugural House Student App Challenge. This past November, the Thiel Foundation awarded her a $1,000 demo pitch prize at its Vegas Summit, recognizing the app for “capitalizing not only on time spent daily on mobile devices, but also youth interest in gaming applications.”
Satvika, who appreciates how important mentors and supporters are for girls who hope to succeed in STEM, notes the encouragement and direction she has received from many adults in the TJ community. Energy Systems Lab Director Adam Kemp, Computer Science teachers Steve Rose and Ria Galanos, and Counselor Kacey McAleer provided direction and support. Biology teacher Dr. Barbara Wood served as her long-time research mentor, and Principal Glazer guided her as she moved from grant applicant to JOSTI presenter and beyond.
Satvika also credits her entire core team with the group’s success: Shankar Balasubramanian, TJ ’15, Curriculum Development; Bita Golshani, Langley ’16, Strategy & Communications (above, at left); Anjali Khanna, TJ ’16, Communications; Christina Wei, TJ ’16, Outreach; Rachel Li, TJ ’16, Product Development (above, center); and Bhuvanesh Murali, TJ ’16, Product Development Lead.
“TJ has provided me with the best opportunity to develop my entrepreneurial, leadership, and teaching skills in my effort to bring better educational opportunities in computer science and STEM fields to girls globally. Furthermore, working with talented peers at school has made it a really fun and enjoyable experience,” Satvika said.