“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” –Anne Frank
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m Labanya, a rising senior at Evergreen Valley High School from San Jose, California. I became fascinated with science and technology in elementary school through robotics, which inspired me later to create Hellobots (hellobots.com), a nonprofit organization to promote the knowledge of robotics and STEM to primarily young girls, minorities, and economically disadvantaged children! I continue to do robotics today as the captain of my school’s all-girls robotics team (shoutout to FTC 9657 Athena Robotics!) I’m also a Girls Who Code SIP alum from Amazon Lab 126 and part of the 2016 She++ #include sisterhood. I’ve participated in science fairs every year since 1st grade, and now I love competing in national and international fairs, where I get to meet like-minded students like me interested in research all over the world, such as at this year’s Intel ISEF 2017!
Most importantly, I’m allergic to carrots, which are sadly my favorite vegetable.
What # would define your life journey?
Favorite website / app:
My favorite apps are Youtube and Snapchat, which I feel has really redefined social media and brought forth new innovation. Youtube is a vast ocean of resources at my fingertips to tend to all of my various interests. On the same app I can binge-watch all the baking videos to my liking, but then also find helpful resources for any topic I need further clarification on or in which I have the slightest interest in, from object oriented programming to piano tutorials.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
The incredible Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code amazes me. She has grown her organization from inspiring 20 to 40,000 girls in a matter of 5 years as well as enabling the next generation of women in technology. She has used her platform to advocate for minorities in tech and leadership and is a great example of the key to success being to “‘Fail hard, fail fast, fail often.”
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
My passion for bringing diversity into STEM stems from my personal experience. In 8th grade I took part in an FLL robotics competition. There I was surprised to see fewer representation of girls and minorities competing since I was part of an all-girls team and diversity in STEM activities never seemed like a problem before then. This inspired me to create my own robotics program (Hellobots) to expose more children to robotics and technology who normally would not have the chance to. However after a couple of sessions at my local libraries, I saw the same re-occurring problem. The majority of students who participated in the classes were from affluent backgrounds and already had access to STEM. How could I bring robotics to elementary school children who aren’t encouraged or don’t have the opportunity to partake in these activities? After much deliberation, I found a solution. I would have to create a more inclusive environment and bring robotics to more vulnerable communities, so I brought my program to libraries and after school programs in Alum Rock and East Side San Jose. Here, many bright children had the chance to explore concepts such as engineering and programming for the very 1st time and later attended multiple sessions of Hellobots! I also partnered with NCWIT Aspire IT to create Hellobots-for-Her, an all-girls program, to nearby libraries to encourage more local girls to attend.
Ever since I was young, I always knew that I wanted to help people, whether that was as a teacher or a doctor. But as of now, I want to use my skill set to use technology and science by innovating solutions through research to better my community and beyond. It excites me that there are a myriad of questions about our world that are left unanswered.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Don’t let anyone or anything bring down your own confidence and self-worth. We may feel the need to compare ourselves to other people who we think are more capable, intelligent, or more experienced than us, especially in STEM fields, but we can’t let imposter syndrome get to us! We’re all incredible people and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can achieve our dreams!