ALUMNAE SPOTLIGHT – Hamsa Shankar

Alumnae Spotlight is where you get to meet our wonderful Astra S.T.E.A.M. Alumnae. In the past three years, we were lucky to have influenced over 80 young girls who are aspired to become young entrepreneurs in the STEAM fields. Each year, these young girls work in teams to come up with New Venture App ideas during a two-day Astra S.T.E.A.M. Summit. At the end of the Summit, they pitch their ideas in front of a panel of judges.

Through this experience, we want to encourage young girls to develop their interests in STEAM subjects as well as entrepreneurship, and to empower them to become the next generation of female scientists and women entrepreneurs.

In today’s Alumnae Spotlight, we would like to introduce you to our 2016 STEAMer -Hamsa Shankar!

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TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT YOURSELF

My name is Hamsa and I am a tenth grader at Tesla STEM High School in Redmond, Washington. I have a passion for music and arts as well as computer science and math. I love to play piano and clarinet, and like to read and do arts and crafts in my spare time. Given my school background, I have great exposure to STEM environment, including Environmental Science and Engineering.

 

Why did you choose a STEM high school and how is it different from other high schools?

I chose a STEM high school because it had many specialized classes that exposed me to different aspects of STEM careers. For one, it pushed me to take classes that I probably wouldn’t have taken in a regular high school such as computer science and had interesting lab courses such as forensics and biomed that gave me perspective on different careers you could have if you went into a STEM field.

How did you first hear about the Astra STEAM Program?

I first heard of the Astra STEAM Program from my parents when they told me about the summit and asked me if I wanted to apply. I was excited to hear about a program that would allow me to explore all the different areas of the STEAM field so I naturally said, “Yes!”.

Which year did you attend the Astra STEAM Summit, and what was your experience like?

I attended the Astra STEAM Summit during the Fall of 2016. I was blown away by how inspirational all the speakers were and took away some great stories to tell my friends at school. At the summit, I worked with girls from different schools and age groups that I didn’t know before, and the experience pulled me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to open up and talk about my ideas for our app.

What was your team’s business and App idea? And how did your team come up with the final idea and pitch?

“SnapFoodie” is an app that allows users to take a picture of their food and have nutrition and health facts about the meal come up to educate users about the food they’re eating. The app would search the internet about the common ingredients used in the making of that food and calculate the number of calories the user would be consuming during that meal.

Our original idea for the app was one that would scan food and water so people would know if what they are consuming is safe or not. However, we thought that if people didn’t have access to clean food and water, they wouldn’t have access to the technology needed to use our app so we decided to make the app more applicable to our own lives. After talking to my group and refining our idea the first day of the Summit, “SnapFoodie” came about.

Your team won first place in 2016 Astra STEAM Summit with “SnapFoodie”. How are you planning on using your award money?

I am planning on donating my award money to my Tesla STEM school to help build a stronger connection between the arts and STEM programs at my school.

Given the STEM focus of our school, there is only a limited opportunity for arts in our curriculum. However, I am hoping that my prize money could be used to increase the exposure of arts to my fellow students through more school art programs. More importantly, I would like my prize money to go towards building an awareness that integrating arts with STEM can lead us to outstanding innovation in the future.

Why do you think the “A” is important in STEAM?

The arts are a very important part of STEAM because it largely involves right brain thinking while science, technology, engineering, and math are more left brain dependent and require linear thinking. Art encourages creativity which is essential in going forward in a world filled with data and technology. For competing businesses, it is usually the one with a product that visually appeals to customers that accumulates the most sales. With the abundance of technologies, only those with creative minds will thrive in the new visually-inclined world we are coming to live in.

What was your best memory from the Astra STEAM Summit?

One of my best memories of the Astra STEAM Summit was pitching our app to a panel of judges. It was a great experience because unlike other app presentations I had done before, as a group we had to figure out how we were going to make profit and partner with other companies to see the greatest growth and outreach of the app. The mentors really helped us think through how we were going to present out app and taught us exactly how business owners would need to calculate their profits from their product.

What were your takeaways from the Astra STEAM Summit?

One of my takeaways from the Astra STEAM Summit was to be bold and express your ideas because they are worth sharing. During the time I spent with my group, we were tossing ideas back and forth and saying what was on our mind in order to make our app idea the best and as well thought out as it could be. It was because we freely shared our ideas that our app idea won the first-place.

 

What is your dream career?

My dream career is to be an Imagineer for the Walt Disney Company as it combines my passion for art as well as computer science. Currently, I am taking AP Computer Science at my school in order to further my skills in computer science, and I am also a member of my school’s National Art Honor Society. My biggest obstacle on my path to becoming an Imagineer is that I am not able to take more arts courses at my school.

Do you have a role model?

My role model is Walt Disney because he persevered to accomplish his dreams and never stopped believing in himself even when his ideas were rejected and was told that he could never produce drawings that people would like and enjoy. Whenever something doesn’t work out for me, I persevere and never give up on my efforts, because I remember that only after multiple attempts, Walt Disney was able to create a largely successful and thriving company.

If you have one advice for the new STEAMers, what would it be?

I would advise new STEAMers to carefully consider each and every idea that your team members present and look for something that could fit in with your thoughts to make something that is unique and different. When you work together with a team and consider all possible ideas, it becomes very easy to innovate and make something applicable to a wide range of people.

Are you currently working on any personal/school project?

I am working on an app with my friends called “Hope for the Homeless.” Our app aims to provide easy access to local resources such as affordable food, shelters, stores, and job openings for the homeless. With this app, we were finalists in UW’s Youth Apps Challenge and won second place in the Congressional App Challenge. Currently, we are in the process of coding our app and implementing various APIs in order to have a job filter and notifications for restaurant food giveaways.

 


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