by Arundhati Kurup
The new world is exciting – self-driving cars, brain-computer interfaces, gene editing, and millions of other things made possible by the advances in science and technology. Oftentimes, the latest wave of technology is limited to those who can afford it, understand it, and process it. As an undergraduate student pursuing Computer Science and Engineering in the small southern city of Trivandrum, India, I decided to break the intangible barrier around the access to modern technologies.
I established “The Codelab Project,” which takes cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, and gaming and provides access to this technology to kids from traditionally disadvantaged communities, living in shelter homes, and children in public schools. I’ll never forget the joy in their hearts, the sparkle in their eyes, and the wonder that was evident when I observed these children as they controlled a robot for the first time. The beauty of providing equal access to technology is the possibilities it opens up — one of these children could go on to discover a technology breakthrough that would change the course of our world.
The initiative also taught hundreds of college students programming. I saw it as a means to enable kids to hack the planet. The kids taught me in return that I was also hacking the planet by enabling them to do so.
To all those wishing to hack the planet – both girls and boys, old and young – I want to share this beautiful quote from Margaret Mead that keeps me going day after day:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
I’m super proud of how I utilized my time, efforts, and ideas to holistically engage in the space of computer science during my undergraduate education. I took challenging courses, established student clubs in my institute, increased the participation of female students in the tech space, published research papers in AI, and wrote articles for mainstream Indian newspapers that reached millions of readers. I graduated top of my class. I also secured multiple scholarships from esteemed organizations for my humble efforts. The past four years taught me that continuous, focused efforts in the right direction will help you to reach your goals no matter what obstacles life decides to throw at you. I wish my younger self knew that the journey that enables you to become a better version of yourself is as important as reaching the destination.
By working at the grassroot level and engaging with local communities, I’ve come to realize that we will require scalable technological solutions for the future. I wake up thinking about how I can use my ideas, skills, and expertise to deliver solutions to our shared problems. To all those who dream of hacking the planet like this girl from a small south Indian city did, I want to tell you this: Please start right away!