At only 16 years old, Krittika Negandhi has her whole career ahead of her. Yet, having been one of two girls in her computer class, the Cumberland Valley High School senior is already encouraging younger girls to pursue STEM careers.
“Seeing that and experiencing that, we all have a wish to help the girls that are younger and help them pursue STEM in the future. It’s really not fair for them to be afraid or wary of the field for no reason,” Negandhi said.
STEM — or science, technology, engineering and math — has played a key role in Negandhi’s high school career. She’s been a member of the robotics team for five years, starting with the team in eighth grade when someone recommended it to her.
“I didn’t really know anything about robotics, but I just thought it would be fun to give it a try. I ended up really liking it and sticking with it through high school,” she said.
As a member of the team, Negandhi has participated in competitions across the state which allowed her to meet people with similar interests while applying the concepts she was learning in her math and science classes.
She explained, for example, that she learned about torque in physics.
“We can experiment with different gear ratios on our robots to increase the torque or increase the speed. We learn the theory in physics, but we can actually apply that and create a robot that has better torque or better speed,” she said.
One competition for the robotics team is the First Tech Challenge. This year’s challenge has the theme of “Relic Recovery,” tasking competitors with building, designing and programming an 18-inch by 18-inch robot that can pick up cubes, place them and score them as well as detect the color of a ball and knock the correct color off a table.
“We have to program all of these different challenges beforehand, and then at the competition we run our programs with three different robots on the field at the same time,” she said.
The daughter of Jignasha Manck and Hiten Negandhi, Negandhi even took her love of science and robotics along to India when she traveled there to visit family. During the trip, she had the opportunity to demonstrate a smaller Lego robot at a school for underprivileged children. The students were “excited and enthusiastic” about all they saw.
“They got to see a robot in action for the first time. We introduced them to the robotics program I do, and we gave them the resources to start a team,” she said.
Closer to home, Negandhi has been part of the planning for STEM camps specifically for girls. The team has also participated in the Harrisburg Girls World Expo in which they let girls drive the robot as a way of introducing them to STEM fields.
Science isn’t the only interest Negandhi wants to pass along to the students coming along behind her. She’s also been involved with Students Teaching International Languages to Elementary Students (STILES). The program involves 50-60 high school students giving Spanish, French, German and Chinese language and culture lessons to elementary students. This year, the program added English as a Second Language to their repertoire.
After graduation, Negandhi isn’t sure where she will attend college, but she is interested in majoring in a field related to environmental science or engineering.