In honor of Women’s History Month, CBS Cares ran a PSA campaign in March to celebrate the important achievements of women. Many inspirational females were featured, including Broadcom MASTERS 2015 alumna Hari Bhimaraju! At the Broadcom MASTERS in 2015, Hari won the first place technology award for creating a low-cost animated teaching tool for the study of elements in the periodic table with an interface for the visually impaired.
Hari was contacted by CBS via Facebook Messenger. At first, she thought it was spam until she confirmed the identity of the person who reached out. “I couldn’t believe that a media corporation as large as CBS would be interested in featuring me,” she recounted. “I can’t say this initial surprise has faded, but nevertheless, I hope I can inspire many more students that age, gender, and awards don’t matter when it comes to following your passions and inventing.”
Hari’s experience was memorable, to say the least. “It was such a joy working with CBS. Through all our back-and-forth about how my name is pronounced and balancing different time zones, CBS treated me like an adult despite my age.” The most exciting moment for Hari was when the list of featured women was released and she saw Professor Fei-Fei Li’s name on it. “I attended an Artificial Intelligence camp at Stanford that was run by AI4ALL, an organization she [Fei-Fei] founded that promotes diversity in AI education. I was inspired to apply for this camp after watching her TED Talk on computer vision. She has been my role model in technology—being included in a PSA alongside her was truly mind-blowing.”
Besides being part of a PSA campaign, Hari has been busy pursuing other ventures. Since the Broadcom MASTERS, Hari has gone onto design a medicine management system for the elderly and visually impaired and even dabbled in inventions on mindful eating. She has also attended STEM conferences, connected with blind schools across the nation and learned more about how to make STEM opportunities universally accessible. Hari is still a part of Donum Visi, an organization her sister, Divija, founded in 2014 with a mission to educate communities about the causes and cures for blindness. The rest of Hari’s free time has been spent interning at the University of California Irvine, co-publishing her first paper, traveling with her school’s robotics team, leading a technological workshop at Fossil Group’s International Day of the Girl celebration in Texas and co-organizing a for-youth-by-youth startup camp with the Global Youth Entrepreneurs in the country Georgia. To say Hari is busy is an understatement!
What keeps Hari motivated, juggling all these things? She cites her privileged upbringing in Silicon Valley as the main driving force. “I have almost unlimited access to technology, enthusiastic and brilliant mentors in almost every field, classmates that are unparalleled in their intellectual fervor and diligence. Many, many people cannot say the same and that is not their fault. I think it is my duty to use my privilege to contribute to social good and to learn from the people I interact with.” The confidence she gained as a Broadcom MASTERS 2015 finalist fuels her continued passion for community service and research. “Competing taught me that the work I had done on my own as a young middle school student, from cutting wires and connecting motors in my home lab to spending hours trying to fix a single bug in my code, could actually make a difference in the lives of people around the world. I truly believe that societal needs should be recognized as the focus behind innovation, and inventions should be guided by diverse groups of people. And of course, age is not a bar for anything!”
In addition to Fei-Fei and her sister, Hari mentioned another female role model in her life—the Society’s very own Allie Stifel. “I can never forget all the emails Allie sent to 11-year-old me, urging me to complete my Broadcom MASTERS application and mentoring me through the competition, filling me with confidence in myself. I know she will always be there for me, inspiring me, cheering me on and watching me learn and grow.”
The future is certainly bright for Hari and we at the Society can’t wait to see what else she accomplishes!