Dublin High School Students Recognized with ITVLG Dreammakers and Risktakers Award
For decades, the San Francisco Bay Area has been acknowledged as the epicenter for technological innovation. From Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Google and Facebook, many of the greatest technology trends have found their birthplace in our own backyard. Last Friday, there was an intimate but boisterous celebration occurring in Pleasanton. At the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel, the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group (ITVLG) hosted a luncheon to honor some of the great young minds that are currently paving their own paths which may lead to great innovations in our future. The ITVLG is a collaborative group of industry leaders who are building a robust ecology of innovation in the Tri-Valley. Their purpose is to improve the business climate of the region and to spur job growth. Presently, this organization geographically covers Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore.
The invitees were treated to a luncheon and a keynote address from David Hemker from Lam Research. Mr. Hemker is a Senior Vice President and CTO with 25 years of experience in the semi-conductor industry. In general, he spoke to the importance of innovation in an ever-changing world. Subsequently, the individual awardees were recognized.
As it relates to the Dublin Unified School District, there were two honorees. Earlier this spring, we had the pleasure of reporting on the accomplishments of a current 10th grader Kumaran Ratnam. Kumaran was a Grand Prize Recipient at the Alameda County Science & Engineering Fair. His project revolved around an energy harvesting system that could power a visual prosthesis for the condition of Macular Degeneration. His project is not just in concept as he is continuing his research with scientists in Boston to further perfect the technology. His research later received a notice through Popular Mechanics Magazine with a “Visionary Breakthrough Award.”
The second honoree is also a DHS Sophomore, Mr. Armaan Sengupta. Along with his partner, Neil Gupta, these two enterprising students sought out to construct a viable online platform for peer-to-peer support for homework related questions. The result is the website: http://www.teenmesh.com/. The genesis of this project was hatched by Neil, a junior at Monte Vista High School in Danville. After Neil visited India, he formulated an alternative platform where students could thrive. Further, this free network could support any student – regardless of socio-economic background. Armaan was a willing partner and served to provide the “second push” in terms of gaining more users and also has served as one of the leading users that provides peer tutoring.
OneDublin.org had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Sengupta after school while he was working with his fellow students in P-5. This was a regular meeting of the Robotics and Engineering club. The room was buzzing with activity and it was clear that he and his colleagues were serious about using their group time well together. Armaan shared his thoughts on TeenMesh and on other matters.
OneDublin.org: Please explain how you and Neil moved TeenMesh from concept to design and to implementation. What was the approximate timeline from inception to where you are today?
Armaan Sengupta: “The idea of TeenMesh first came about when my friend Neil volunteered in India in assisting children lacking the educational resources at home with their academic work. He quickly collaborated with me and I was intrigued by the idea and I immediately joined the TeenMesh team. It started as a concept in 2011 and developed into an educational question and answer website open to the public in January 2013. Now, in 2014, we have over 3,800 users from over 70 countries and we are proud with the amount of progress we have made. However, we want to keep pushing TeenMesh and make those numbers increase immensely.”
OneDublin.org: The site now has active participation with numerous users. Now that it is clear that the platform has gained acceptance by teens in locations around the globe, dare to be bold. What goals/aspirations do you and your team share for TeenMesh in the short and long term?
Sengupta: “Right now, we want TeenMesh to keep growing in the amount of users and activity on the website. Some goals we have are to develop a mobile app for TeenMesh to make it easier for the students to access the website and to obtain more ambassadors that can spread the word about TeenMesh as an educational resource to their schools. In the future, we would like to see TeenMesh become the largest academic resource and become more popular than other educational platforms such as Wikipedia.”
OneDublin.org: You clearly have a love for Mathematics and Science. Please describe the areas of study that you can see yourself pursuing after Dublin High School. And tell us why.
Sengupta: “After Dublin High School, I would like to pursue Computer Science at a top college. Computer Science combines mathematics and science with computers into an enjoyable field. I enjoy programming in many different languages such as Python and applying computer technology to develop small applications. Dublin High has already increased my interest in this field with its strong Engineering Academy and Robotics Club.”
OneDublin.org: We are sure that your ultimate goal was not to receive awards. However, please articulate what it means to you to be recognized with the Dreammakers and Risktakers recognition.
Sengupta: “Receiving awards is not the ultimate goal of TeenMesh but it encourages us to work harder to improve the education of others. It is also benevolent in the sense that it spreads TeenMesh to more people and brings more users to the website. Receiving the Dreammakers and Risktakers award is a great honor, especially being associated with the great work of the other recipients. I was very excited about this award and would like to thank Innovation Tri-Valley for offering it and the Dublin Unified School District for nominating me.”
Without question, the multitude of students that are expanding their minds into engineering concepts would not be able to do so without a capable teacher. We mentioned our earlier visit to P-5 to make observations. In truth, this represented only a fragment of the sessions that are occurring daily after school. Every day, a healthy number of students are working on various projects. Some of these are experimental in nature and some of these will lead to completed projects in a VEX competition. It takes a staff member to bring this all together and it is represented in Ms. Eugene Chou.
Eugene attained a B.S. in Mathematical Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Subsequently, she completed a M.S. Industrial Engineering and Operations Research with a Certificate in Management of Technology from the University of California, Berkeley. After gaining a single subject teaching credential in Mathematics from California State University, East Bay, she commenced her teaching career at Oakland High School in 2004. She joined DUSD in 2007 and has worked in the Math Department at Dublin High. OneDublin.org recently had the opportunity to gain her insights into the growth of the Engineering program at DHS.
OneDublin.Org: Since you started teaching at DHS, please comment upon the expansion of the Engineering program and the interest in VEX/Robotics.
Eugene Chou: “I was one of two teachers that started teaching engineering five years ago now. I was brought in to help coordinate the program after its first year. Since that time, we have expanded from two sections serving about 45 students to nine sections serving about 250 students this year. We also recruit students to join the Engineering Academy – a small community of students that make a commitment to the pathway and earn an engineering certificate upon graduation. We currently have about 90 students in the academy (about 30 students in each year 10-12).
“We started the robotics program the same year that we started the engineering courses. That first year we had about 12 active members and two competitive teams. Over the last five years, we have expanded to about 50 active members working in four competitive teams and three project teams.”
OneDublin.org: On the afternoon of our visit, P5 housed a group of very focused and industrious students. While you modestly stated that you don’t offer minute-to-minute guidance, how does this group remain on task? Is there a hierarchy?
Chou: “Our club is student run and we actively support student leadership in the club. We currently have a leadership team that consists of nine members. These positions are determined each spring by election process and their roles adjust and change each year. I meet with our leaders about once per month to discuss team progress, plan events and brainstorm ways to improve our organization as a whole. In the past we have done what we call a deputy system, where our experienced officers each mentored a “new” leader. We plan to do this on rotation every other year to continue to build leaders in our club. In general, our students are extremely well-motivated and set high expectations for themselves regardless of what I tell them to do. I am lucky that our club tends to attract great students that are easy to manage.
“A lot of our mission and tradition comes directly from our founding team. I work with an incredible group of students that set high expectations for our club that is focused on student learning (both self-guided and peer-driven) and community awareness. Our leadership team now carries these same ideals and all of our leaders come in with the expectation to actively work toward our mission’s goals.
“Our students hold their own seminars and all new members are required to attend two seminars. These seminars are based on skills that our members believe to be important for success in our club and also engineering. Topics include: Design Process & Notebook, Programming, Autodesk Inventor, Scouting Database. Our students also ran an after-school program at Fallon last spring that was a 10-week course with curriculum written by students.”
OneDublin.org: As one of Armaan’s instructors, please describe how it feels to have to have one of your students recognized at a regional event.
Chou: “I’ve known Armaan for going on three years now. He has always had strong personal motivation and intelligence. I am very proud of the work that Armaan has done, though I can’t say that I helped him directly with any of it. I am often in awe of what my students are able to produce, but not surprised. I believe that all of my students have greatness in them. I think the greatest thing that a teacher can provide is belief and expectations. Setting high expectations for my students and supporting them in any way that I can is significantly more important than any particular concept that I will teach. Above all else, I hope to teach my students to dream big and reach higher and seize the opportunities that are given to them. Will it take a lot of work? Probably. Will it be challenging? Likely. Could I fail? Yes. But, will it be worth it? Definitely.”
OneDublin.org: STEM-centered studies and careers will remain in focus for many years to come. Please articulate how and why you would like to increase student enrollment in courses such as Principles of Engineering or Engineering Design at Dublin High School.
Chou: “STEM is everywhere and in everything. To prepare our students for a successful future, they need tools that can outlast changes in theory and technology. Students need to learn how to solve a problem even when they have no specific knowledge to help them. They need to learn that solving a problem begins with a lot of unknowns and will likely only be solved through a series of failures. Our engineering courses and all “Project Lead the Way” courses focus on the skills that students can take with them for a lifetime of learning – teamwork, communication, perseverance, creativity, analytical & complex thinking and time management. These are skills are that are not only important for STEM-related careers but for any career.”
In sum, it was a revelation. Every day, important lessons are being shared in small-sized portable classrooms at DHS. Accolades are being presented in medium-sized hotel ballrooms. And, enormous initiatives are being hatched by our students – right here in the Tri-Valley. We commend these young people for being Dreammakers and Risktakers. OneDublin.org would like to thank Kumaran Ratnam, Armaan Sengupta and Eugene Chou for their contributions to this profile.