Winter Garden resident Aditya Gandhi, 17, recently was awarded the STEAM Scholarship by the National Society of High School Scholars.
“I feel really happy winning the scholarship, because it helps me pay for college,” he said. “And, it helps my parents in a way, too, because it decreases the financial burden that my parents have in paying for me to go to college.”
More than 600 high school seniors applied for the 2023 NSHSS STEAM Scholarship. Gandhi was among the 10 students selected this year to receive $1,000.
According to the NSHSS website, the scholarship was created to honor students “who embrace and celebrate the STEAM (science/medicine, technology, engineering, arts or mathematics) field and thrive within it. … The increasing role of technological innovations in our daily life cannot be understated, and by recognizing the significance of the arts, the STEAM field provides a vast amount of opportunity for those interested in it.”
Gandhi, a recent graduate from Orlando Science High School, will be attending the University of Florida to major in computer science. As part of the application for the STEAM Scholarship, he had to answer: “Why STEAM?”
His answer referred to human-computer interaction and how he wishes to create technology that eventually could be accessible to all people — people with disabilities and from all walks of life.
“That’s kind of an interest I want to pursue in college,” Gandhi said. “Last summer, I actually went to the University of Central Florida to kind of work and kind of shadow a lot of the Ph.D. students in their human computer interaction lab. And although I didn’t get to work on too many projects with them, the one thing I learned is they actually introduced me to this whole field of human computer interaction and creating and using virtual reality and how we can enhance our interaction with virtual technologies.”
In addition to the NSHSS STEAM Scholarship, Gandhi received also a scholarship from the STAMPS Scholars Program, which awards multi-year scholarships to “driven and talented student leaders to help them achieve their goals.”
Through this scholarship, Gandhi will enjoy the experience of traveling through his collegiate years at UF to different countries around the world, such as Mexico and South Africa, during the summer seasons — all expenses paid.
“It’ll really show me how people live and the different lifestyles in which they live in allowing me to create technology that kind of suits their needs, in a way,” he said.
During his high school years, with help of his robotics team — Gra-V Robotics — and a partnership with AT Makers, Gandhi was part of the team that developed the “Freedom Wing Adapter.”
“We were creating an adapter that lets people in motorized wheelchairs use their joystick to play video games,” he said. “That was an amazing project. … We actually shipped it to more than 100 people throughout the country who needed this technology for them to stay connected with their loved ones.”
One of the lives Gandhi helped change with the Freedom Wing Adapter was that of a United States citizen who has spinal muscular atrophy — a condition that make his bones fragile and brittle.
“That has left him in a wheelchair for all of his life, since he was born,” Gandhi said. “This technology has let him use the joystick as a computer mouse using the adapter, (which) he uses as part of his daily lifestyle. … This project taught me that as an engineer, it’s your duty to create things that are accessible to all people. … In turn, (we can) create unity, because if we are able to use similar technology and we are able to use that technology to connect with one another, that’s really important.”
As part of the Gra-V Robotics team, Gandhi participated also in different competitions under a division called First Robotics. Teams from about 30 countries around the world compete while creating robots that are about 120 pounds. Gra-V Robotics also participated in community service and outreach activities such as volunteering at the Orlando Science Center.
Looking forward to his college years, Gandhi is excited about how to remain true to himself and bring his ideas — and his culture — into the STEAM field through future projects.
“(I bring) a unique voice (to the STEAM field),” he said. “When I think of a team and what it means to be a team, I think of a symphony. You have a lot of different instruments — each having a specific role. And what I bring … is a unique voice filled by my culture and my identity of who I am. I am Indian-American. My parents immigrated from India to the United States, and that has really taught me a lot about how important culture is, and I really want to intertwine culture with engineering as well.
“And, if we are creating technology that is accessible to the world, we need a team of people who are different as well,” Gandhi said. “Because, people who are different, when we come together — our differences — (that’s) what makes a team so special. And I think that’s what I want to bring to college — valuing my uniqueness and not changing who I am because I know that the unique that I have is a value to others.”