#WomeninSTEM · #WomeninTech · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Adithi Raghavan

“According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyways. Because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.” ― Bee Movie

Adithi is a high school junior from Washington State who enjoys spreading the power of technology through her community. As a sixth grader, Adithi joined her school’s Code club on a whim. The first day she walked into the classroom, Adithi looked around and found herself staring at a room full of boys. As the only girl, Adithi remembers the helpless and uncomfortable feelings that ensued while being in what amounted to an unsupportive environment, ultimately feeling dissuaded from pursuing any interest in CS. Thus, she started investing her time into other hobbies like writing and playing the piano after school in lieu of going to Code club.

However, her mother, being a woman in STEM, understood the obstacles she was facing and encouraged Adithi to find resources online through platforms such as Coursera and edX. It was by working through these courses that Adithi encountered her first bug and a newfound love for problem solving. Seeking to share what she had learned, Adithi began the process of bringing a Girls Who Code club to her school during her freshman year. This proved to be quite the task, for it would be one of the few STEM clubs in her arts based school, thus receiving little support from the administration. However, after speaking and meeting with girls in younger grades, Adithi was able to find a group of like-minded individuals. Together they persuaded skeptical staff and students to throw their support behind the club. During the club fair, Adithi listened to a profound story from an underclassman looking to join the club, having been the sole girl in Code club the previous year. Needless to say, it was clear that the gender disparity in STEM in Adithi’s school impacted a broader population than that of which she was previously aware of. This student’s story only affirmed her motivation to share Girls Who Code with more girls. It also taught her a valuable lesson–to never be afraid to reach out to others in her community because you never know who you could impact. 

At the start of the year, Adithi and the Girls Who Code Club members brainstormed ideas for a capstone project that would highlight the application of technology to prominent social issues. Members began listing out amazing ideas ranging from a website to educate the public on LGBTQIA+ issues to an app that promotes the celebration of world cultures. As Adithi listened, she realized that there was more to coding than syntax. Coding was like any other form of communication, a language for social good, for empowerment, and for positive change in the world. Thus, she decided to embark on a project of her own, combining her environmental interest with technological capabilities to create an app called BEEducated with her friend. BEEducated serves to bring awareness to the detrimental effects of the declining bee population and the possible ways to mitigate this. Upon winning the ‘Most Creative’ award from the MIT AppInventor challenge, the developers at MIT AppInventor contacted Adithi about enhancing the app for commercial use as the official app to represent the MIT AppInventor logo: “Codi the Bee.” The app was downloaded over 1000 times worldwide and is now on the Android App Store. 

With this app, Adithi decided to start a campaign to raise awareness about the plight of bees in her own community. Not sure where to begin or who to turn to, Adithi found a surprising source of inspiration in her community leaders. After volunteering to go on a gardening expedition with her local wildlife habitat, Adithi met a wonderful group of older women working to preserve the environment. It was then that Adithi realized the organization’s lack of youth participation and digital techniques that could help them reach a broader audience. Recognizing this, Adithi formed three pillars for her campaign designed to bridge the gap: information accessibility, environmental action, and digital literacy. Her initiative, eponymously titled BEEducated for the app, partnered with other like-minded organizations and cultivated a team of middle and high schoolers to effectively disseminate their message to over 200,000 students in their county. BEEducated then won the STEM for Changemaking Challenge run by Ashoka and the PEYA Honorable Mention award, receiving over $1000 in funding for their initiative. Together, she and her team are continuing to seek out volunteers and schools to not only promote pollinator awareness, but also improve digital literacy within their community. BEEducated is currently taking team/volunteer applications here!

When she’s not found in her garden, Adithi enjoys meeting people, especially young students, through community service and teaching. After volunteering at her brother’s elementary school, she noticed that there were no opportunities for kids to learn about computer science. Most had to wait until high school before they received any exposure to the subject. Thus, she founded code+Charms. It’s an organization dedicated to teaching computer science fundamentals to youth from underserved areas in Western Washington and beyond. To date, it has served over 200 students and has chapters in Washington and California. Adithi also works as a coding instructor for the company Coding With Kids where she teaches students between the ages of 6 and 8 how to code in Scratch. Through her job and lens of a teacher, Adithi, has seen the insidious effects of being in a male-dominated classroom as the only girl in the class. For instance, Adithi remember how one of her students was told to stick to designing costumes for sprites in Scratch because “that’s all she’s good at.” It’s comments like these that lead Adithi to utilize the moment as an opportunity to explain the limitless applications of coding for everyone irrespective of their gender and such. For instance, she tells them about building chatbots with artificial intelligence and how 50% of the AI camp she attended last summer was comprised of young women. In doing so, she hopes that beyond coding, her students will learn the importance of inclusivity and creativity. 

As she mentioned before, last summer Adithi was selected as one of 32 students nationwide to attend the Princeton AI4All camp. Her research focused on the cybersecurity implications of IoT devices. Her experiences at the camp helped shape her future career aspirations into combining AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Psychology. Her aspirations in computing were also covered by Princeton University in a video featured in this article

After learning about the need for representative voices and faces in AI, Adithi co-founded a nonprofit called AImagination with two other AI4ALL alumni in an effort to promote diversity and a STEAM-based learning approach to AI concepts. As someone who has always valued engaging in the arts and STEM, it was imperative that we combine the traditionally isolated arts fields with STEM proved for the crux of the initiative’s curriculum to prove that it is possible to do both. AImagination previously won the AI4ALL Outreach grant for $1000. Currently, AImagination operates in three separate locations nationwide, serving over 250 students, and will be expanding to an additional five chapters by the end of the summer. AImagination has also partnered with 5+ organizations, including 4-H and AI4ALL. 

In addition to studying AI, Adithi is also fond of performing research. She currently works at a nonprofit called Coding4LifeScience, where she performs research at the UW (University of Washington) lab on analyzing the genetic profile of salmonberries for possible medicinal properties. She and her team plan on publishing a research paper about it by the end of 2019.

In school, she serves as the cofounder and co-president of her school’s HOSA (Future Health Professionals) chapter. She also acts as the secretary for her area’s chapter of the Global Give Back Circle, an organization that empowers at risk women worldwide by providing them with the necessary work and life skills to succeed. 

The languages that Adithi knows are Java, Python, React, HTMl/CSS, C, C++, MATLAB, and R. This summer Adithi also interned at Expedia, where she was able to further her skills as a software engineer working on Expedia’s website as part of the Packages team to enhance the ultimate travel experience. With her love for websites, she won third place in the E-business category for FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and qualified for nationals. She also won fourth place at state in the National History Day Competition for her website on the violation of women’s rights in military institutions and fourth place at state for HOSA in the Behavioral Health category, qualifying her for the International Leadership Conference. 

In her free time, Adithi likes to practice her beekeeping skills in her backyard, write and publish poetry, study psychology, and learn new languages (she’s currently learning Korean now)! Her writing has been awarded by the Scholastic Art & Writing competition as a Gold Key winner and American Voices nominee and her poetry has been published in numerous online publications and the national literary magazine known as The Apprentice Writer. In the future, she hopes to combine her interests in writing and psychology into projects like a poetry generator that uses AI to stimulate creative thought or a chatbot that serves as an outlet for high schoolers dealing with stress and mental health issues. Adithi hopes to attend college abroad one day as she loves to travel, having been to areas like the Galápagos Islands, Costa Rica, and France.

Adithi Raghavan in an NCWIT Aspirations in Computing  2019 National Honorable Mention Winner

Follow her on Twitter: @AdithiRaghavan

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