A Teenager Who Developed Tools and Solutions to Address Global Food Insecurity, Climate Change and Many Other Grand Challenges
Hello. Who are you and what have you achieved?
My name is Samyak Shrimali and I am currently a senior at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, USA. I have always been passionate about science and technology and have had a strong desire to innovate and make the world a better place. My goal is to change the world for the better and I strongly believe that this is only possible through the knowledge and application of STEM.
I have developed several novel tools and solutions that address a variety of problems such as hospital-acquired infections, global food insecurity, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. I have presented my research and innovations at numerous national and international science competitions, conferences, and fairs, and have won several accolades for my work.
In addition to my research and innovation, I am also an active STEM and hand-hygiene promoter. I started an initiative called Sanjeevani, a non-profit that aims to bridge the education gap between developing and developed worlds through free and engaging STEM workshops for students. The initiative also focuses on identifying societal problems that often go overlooked and working to advocate for them through global platforms. To date, the Sanjeevani team has mentored and impacted over 3,200+ students through in-person and virtual STEM workshops, reached 2,100+ people globally for hand hygiene advocacy, and supported 170+ families with survival supply/hygiene care kits.
In addition to my work with Sanjeevani, I also lead various STEM-based activities, at school, through clubs, and in my community. I am the president of the Research Club, South Asian Culture Club, and Science Olympiad at Jesuit High School. I am also involved in community outreach activities through the Mayor's Youth Advisory Board, NGN Portland, and March for Science PDX. I believe that my community is my extended family with whom I have a responsibility to help in their needs and growth. Through my work, I hope to inspire others to pursue their passions and make a positive impact on the world.
What's your backstory and how did you get started?
My backstory begins with a personal experience of seeing the effects of poor hand hygiene compliance in a hospital setting. During a family trip to India, my mother fell ill with hospital-acquired infections likely caused by poor staff hand hygiene. This experience sparked my interest in finding a solution to this problem and led me to start brainstorming and researching ways to track hand hygiene compliance in hospitals. I began by learning about microcontrollers, sensors, and programming in C++ through online tutorials and eventually developed a system to track staff hand hygiene at alcohol dispensers, sinks, and beds. This project earned me recognition as a national top-10 finalist in the 3M Discovery Education Young Scientist Challenge, which provided funding and mentorship to further develop my design.
Take us through the process or steps you took to be where you are.
The process began with my personal experience of witnessing the effects of poor hand hygiene in a hospital setting and my desire to find a solution to this problem. I then started to research and learn about microcontrollers, sensors, and programming in C++ through online tutorials. With this knowledge, I began designing a system to track staff hand hygiene compliance in hospitals. After months of development, my project was recognized as a national top-10 finalist in the 3M Discovery Education Young Scientist Challenge, which provided funding and mentorship to further develop my design.
I then spent my summer working on improving the system's algorithms and extending its functionalities to take into account corner-case scenarios and redesigning its hardware to a level appropriate for working hospitals. I presented the system to 150 medical experts at 6 hospitals to gain suggestions for improvements and one particular challenge led me to study Convolutional Neural Networks in high school. I worked with Dr. Christof Teuscher, tested a variety of cameras compatible with Arduino, collected 15,000 images referencing the 6 different WHO hand motions, and designed an efficient CNN that, when fully integrated with my system, had an accuracy of 91.2% in distinguishing between proper and improper hygiene compliance.
This research laid the foundation for my other projects and my nonprofit, Sanjeevani, which emphasizes the importance of following proper hand hygiene and provides free STEM workshops to students around the world. It also sparked my passion for artificial intelligence and its potential. Since then, I have developed several other tools, apps, and systems to mitigate problems like food insecurity, the food waste crisis, climate change, skin cancer, and cyberbullying.
Along the way, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Along the way, I have learned several things that have been particularly helpful or advantageous. One of the most important things I have learned is the power of interdisciplinary thinking and the ability to apply knowledge and skills from one field to another. For example, my initial interest in solving the problem of hospital-acquired infections led me to learn about microcontrollers, sensors, and programming in C++, which I then applied to the development of my hand hygiene compliance system.
Another key learning has been the importance of testing and iteration in the development process. I have learned that it is essential to test your ideas, gather feedback, and make adjustments along the way in order to improve and optimize the final product. I have also learned the importance of being adaptable, open-minded and always willing to learn new things, as the field of Artificial intelligence is constantly evolving.
Additionally, I have learned the importance of collaboration, networking, and mentorship. Working with experts in the medical field and receiving mentorship from the 3M Discovery Education Young Scientist Challenge helped me gain valuable insights and feedback for my hand hygiene compliance system.
What are you working on today and what does the future look like?
As of today, I am currently working on several AI-based solutions for problems such as food insecurity, climate change, skin cancer, and cyberbullying. I have had six independent papers published in international peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings. I have also presented my work at over 15 international and national conferences, such as BIO, MIT UTRC, ISMB Madison, ACCC, Sigma Xi IFoRE, and IC2IE. Additionally, I have received over $10,000 in grants for my research. I have also been recognized for my work through various awards, such as being named a STS Scholar, an ISEF Finalist, a Microsoft Imagine Cup Junior, and a Children's Climate Prize Global Finalist.
In the future, after completing my college, I hope to create my own company in the field of Artificial Intelligence, utilizing it in the fields of biomedical and environmental engineering to promote human health and improve the environment. I see a lot of potential in using AI to address critical issues such as climate change and healthcare, and I am excited to continue exploring these opportunities and making a positive impact on the world.
What have been the most influential books, people, or other resources?
One of the most influential books that I have read is "Eat That Frog!" by Brian Tracy. This book helped me understand the importance of prioritization and time management, which has been crucial in helping me stay focused and productive while working on my projects.
Another resource that has been extremely influential in my journey is Tensorflow documentation. It has been an invaluable tool in learning about machine learning and deep learning techniques.
I have also found several YouTubers and online resources to be incredibly helpful in my learning journey. For example, Sentdex, Corey Schafer, and freeCodeCamp have provided valuable tutorials and information on programming languages such as Python and C++.
Mentorship has also been an important part of my journey. I have been fortunate enough to have had two great mentors who have provided guidance and support. Dr. Christof Teuscher from Portland State University, who helped me in my research on hand hygiene compliance and Dr. Mahfuza Ali from 3M, who provided valuable feedback and mentorship on my projects.
Advice for other young people who want to get started or are just starting out?
My advice for other young people who want to get started or are just starting out is to start small, but think big. It's important to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, but also to be realistic about the steps required to get there.
Another important piece of advice is to not be afraid to fail. Failure is a natural part of the learning process and should be viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow.
I would also recommend staying curious and constantly seeking out new knowledge and opportunities. The field of AI is constantly evolving, and it's important to stay up-to-date with the latest developments and trends.
Networking and collaboration are also key. Connect with other people who share your interests and passions, and seek out mentorship from experts in the field.
Finally, I would recommend taking action and not just sitting on your ideas. Start small, work on a project, get feedback and iterate. The most important thing is to start and keep moving forward.
Is there anything you would like us to highlight in particular?
I would like to offer my Medium (https://medium.com/@SPX701) and YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMVB4VA_LLac4oRoXbMgk0w) as resources for anyone who is interested in learning more about AI and technology. My goal is to make the complex world of AI accessible and understandable for readers at all levels, and I hope that the readers will consider checking these resources out. I believe it will be a valuable resource for anyone who is interested in learning more about the field and stay updated with the latest developments.