I only truly understood Computer Science’s potential to save lives after my grandfather slipped on the bathroom floor. For most, this would be no reason to panic. But for my Nana, debilitated by severe Alzheimer's, it meant lying in agony for nearly forty minutes, his phone just out of reach. What if his phone had heard his cries for help?
To answer that burning question, I began building Rescuer, a hands-free emergency response application that allows users to send emergency messages—including pictures, audio files, and location of the scene - using unique features like voice recognition. For example, if a user yells their voice recognition key phrase from a different room, Rescuer will hear it and automatically send emergency messages with their location and other information to pre-defined contacts.
"The sparkle in his eyes was red hot, kindled from the same fire that my first hackathon had lit in me. This was when I truly realized I had left a mark on my community."
- Ruchir B.
After building a prototype, I realized Rescuer could benefit more than just my family: it could save anyone. As I began to apply for patents, my apps suddenly began acquiring tens of thousands of downloads, gaining recognition from the media, presidential candidates, and app competitions. I realized that I—a mere high school student coding from his bedroom—could solve any problem, even save lives, through STEM. That realization, that I can truly make a mark on this world through my software, lit within me a spark for utilizing Computer Science for social good; a spark that can never be put out.
Since then, I’ve dedicated myself to one goal: to make my mark by creating tech awareness in my community and building meaningful software.
"I took this tragedy as an opportunity to learn more about the disease and see if I could use technology to combat it."
- Ruchir B.
Upon conceptualizing the sheer impact one can make through code, I made it my mission to promote technology in my community. For example, I founded the Tech Bytes Club, a high school tech journal written by and for high schoolers to inspire students to explore technology. After Tech Bytes gained rampant popularity at my own school, I established branches in three other high schools, where the club took off as well.
After seeing the excitement Tech Bytes stirred in my community, I founded Millibit Hacks, a hackathon—or coding competition—which is open to all. The event left such a large mark that massive companies like Microsoft, Unity, and Subway sponsored the event, providing speakers, prizes, and financial support towards the cause. As the event came to a close, I distinctly remember one of our younger contestants coming to me and whispering, “Yo this coding thing; I wanna, like, do this.” The sparkle in his eyes was red hot, kindled from the same fire that my first hackathon had lit in me. This was when I truly realized I had left a mark on my community.
Since then, local teachers have invited me to give inspirational tech talks in their classrooms. I do so happily each time, hoping to inspire the next generation to leave their own mark through technology.
Ultimately, my grandfather passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. I took this tragedy as an opportunity to learn more about the disease and see if I could use technology to combat it. After loads of research, I realized that Artificial Intelligence—a type of technology that allows computers to learn like humans do—holds the power to predict and diagnose neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s better than humans. Once again motivated by my grandfather, I immersed myself in the world of AI: I signed up for relevant courses at my community college, began blogging about AI, shadowed a data scientist, and even conducted AI research at the university level. I then applied my knowledge of AI through a personal project, in which I produced a computer-generated rap song and shared it through a TEDx Talk, “How I Taught My Computer to Rap.” As I attempted to make my mark in Alzheimer’s research, I became obsessed with the field of AI along the way.
Now, as an incoming freshman majoring in Computer Science, I hope to study AI within the sphere of Alzheimer’s and leave the biggest mark yet. I want to do so by embarking in AI research through a Ph.D. or by starting a company that specializes in using AI to predict and diagnose the disease.
Computer Science is my paintbrush, allowing me to paint impactful strokes of innovation in nearly every domain: helping me truly make a mark on the world. Everything I’ve done so far in making my mark has been without any funding or scholarships. With a scholarship, however, I can truly bolden my mark. Given the 2020 Make Your Mark Scholarship, I would make sure to make the most of it—leaving no stone unturned—to truly leave a lasting mark on society through technology. Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S.’s Scholarship will allow me to spend less time worrying about paying for college and more time innovating while focusing completely on building software that can save lives like those of my late grandfather’s.
- Ruchir B.