Teen who founded local nonprofit heads to MIT

Louisville teen heads to MIT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Technology has always been a big part of Anjali Chadha's life.

“I’ve always been in schools, from Walden to Meyzeek to Manual, that really encouraged STEM,” Chadha said. “[They] really pushed the importance of technology, not just in the classroom but really in our lives and the world around us.”

Her parents are also technology entrepreneurs, so she's always seen the technology world.

By the time she was in fifth grade, she knew how to build a website and was learning programming.

“And then throughout middle school, I taught myself the fundamentals, just the basics of a lot of programming languages,” Chadha said.

She said it wasn’t too difficult to learn it all. While she was teaching herself the basics of programming, she was observing what was happening around her.

“A lot of my classmates had parents who had small businesses that were struggling, and that could really have used the help of some cool technology tools or just somebody with technology experience,” Chadha said. “That seems to be lacking among this minority community.”

At the same time, she was growing a passion for STEM.

“Oftentimes I really was the only girl in the room,” Chadha said. “The only girl at the table. And that was a bit disconcerting and uncomfortable.”

She came up with an idea for a non-profit called Empowered (https://getempowered.co/). It launched in 2016. The organization was created to help high school girls learn technology skills while also helping real businesses in the process. Each summer, 10 girls go through a seven-week training program to learn technical skills like designing and developing websites and managing social media for businesses for marketing purposes.

“I’m really lucky to have parents who supported me, showed me interesting and amazing opportunities and let me do what I was interested in and made sure I stuck with things,” Chadha said.

In high school, Chadha continued to take part in science fairs and conducting research. Last summer, she went through a research program at MIT called the Research Science Institute.

“That was an incredible experience,” Chadha said.

In March 2019, she went to the oldest science fair in the world, called the Science Talent Search, or STS. Only 40 high school seniors across the country are selected to go.

“It’s an extremely rigorous science fair with extremely rigorous judging,” Chadha said. “But it was amazing.”

Outside of science, Chadha said she also loves the arts. She’s been a dancer for 12 years, but when she thinks about a career, she said she wants to stick to science.

“The reason why I would said I’m most passionate about science, and why I’ll most definitely find a career in the STEM field, is because of the direct impact that STEM solutions can have on our immediate community, but also on the world at large,” Chadha said. “How we can come up with solutions on a microscopic scale that have extremely large-scale implications.”

She is headed to MIT this fall to study bio-engineering.

“My goal for college and going to MIT is trying to figure out which problems in the world around us are the most important ones to solve, and trying to figure out the right thought process and the right course of action to employ to be able to solve those problems,” Chadha said.

Chadha will leave for MIT in a few days. She will attend the school on a full tuition scholarship from the Byran Cameron Education Foundation for her research work and her work with Empowered.

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