From the TGR Learning Lab to MIT
Without a doubt, Shantanu Jakhete will take MIT by storm this fall. The recent high school graduate and former TGR Learning Lab Florida student has spent the last several years studying STEM and honing and sharing his skills. Everything he’s already accomplished in this short time tells us he’s in a league of his own. And the only thing that trumps Shantanu’s passion for STEM is his deep-seated desire to use his knowledge to help his community and the world. Read on to learn how Shantanu’s drive, with the support of teachers, mentors and the Tiger Woods Foundation, has fueled his love of STEM.
During my final semester at South Fork High School in Stuart, Florida, I presented a short professional lecture at GreenBiz 2017, an international conference on sustainability, at Arizona State University; I had my research on a low-cost, chemical-free mosquito control published in the Journal of Medical Entomology; I led my robotics team to the division finals of the World Championship as Vice-Captain of Technical; I became one of three- hundred Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars; I won first place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair Animal Sciences Division; and I was inducted into Sigma Xi, the Scientific Honor Society as an associate member.
After graduating summa cum laude from my high school, I started my internship at a local engineering firm, where I manage all IT and help with polymer coatings and electrical assembly for advanced water treatment systems. This fall, I will be heading to MIT to study mechanical engineering and computer science and I’m extremely eager to start projects in artificial intelligence and robotics for potential use in the global health industry.
Although I am proud of my accomplishments, I am even prouder of the legacy I am leaving behind in my community. I believe that one of the biggest lessons STEM teaches us is to collaborate with others, inspire the next generation, give back to the community and ultimately leave the world a better place than we found it.
The first time I learned this lesson was when I joined the TGR Learning Lab when I was a student at Murray Middle School. In middle school, my favorite part of the television show CSI was when the lab person solved the case using high-tech equipment or advanced computer software. As a result, it was exciting when I finally had my chance to become the forensic investigator at the TGR Learning Lab, every Monday and Wednesday at least!
I really enjoyed “solving the case” afterschool and getting hands-on with the same science and math I was learning during the day. But, to 11-year-old me, what was cooler was the fact that all of my friends were just as excited as I was; everyone in the lab shared such great enthusiasm for working together and solving the case as a team. Being able to work with so many passionate friends and teachers (Ms. Lynch and Ms. Kirsch) really ignited my own passion for pursuing STEM and becoming just like the scientific superstars on TV.
Out of my love for STEM grew my passion for robotics. I invest hundreds of hours each year working on a robot that completes a certain task for scoring the maximum number of points. As Vice-Captain of Technical within my robotics team, I am responsible for manufacturing a 120-lb robot from scratch and making sure it works. In the course of six weeks, I lead a team of about thirty people in designing, manufacturing, wiring, programming and testing the robot. We work with professional engineers to make sure the robot performs optimally.
The best part? All of this started when I visited the TGR Learning Lab in Anaheim, California for the middle school Summer Academy program. One of the activities during the week was to build a LEGO robot for a competition. This was my first time seeing a robot and I was blown away that I could build and program this LEGO robot in just one day. During the week that I was in California, I spent as much time as I could with the robot controller, making new programs and learning how robots work. I can definitely point to the Anaheim TGR Learning Lab as my first source of inspiration for robotics.
Now, you’re probably wondering how this translates to me leaving behind a legacy and giving back to the community, as I had claimed earlier. I think that besides all of the robotics, the forensic science, the biology, the video game design and all of the other STEM activities, the most important lesson I learned from participating in the TGR Learning Lab was that you have to utilize your platform and do good with what you have.
By starting a lab at Murray Middle School, the TGR Learning Lab was and will continue to inspire and encourage kids like me to pursue science and technology in an effort to make the world a better place. The two hours every week allowed us to have fun with science and interact with others who shared the same passion for working together and solving such intricate puzzles. It was our first glimpse into what a STEM education and career meant, and how we are all capable of making a difference using STEM.
The TGR Learning Lab served as inspiration and led me towards many rewarding experiences. Throughout high school, my focus was always sharing my passion for STEM and using my platform to inspire others, just like my mentors at the TGR Learning Lab have done. Over the last four years, I have mentored two robotics clubs, teaching fellow students how to work together and problem-solve on their own. I’ve taught classes on electrical design and I recently started an independent computer science club to teach people programming and basic computer science skills. I also started a math club, which unlike most clubs, is free and open to anyone to join. In fact, I emulated the TGR Learning Lab model of involving the whole school by running fun competitions—with donuts as prizes of course! Using my platform and opportunities, I was able to create new platforms and opportunities for others to join and expand on their own.
I am grateful for the opportunities the Tiger Woods Foundation has given me and I cannot imagine where I would be today without the initial push I received from them. The Tiger Woods Foundation, the Learning Lab, my mentors, including Ms. Lynch and Ms. Kirsch and friends have provided me with the tools I need in order to excel. I hope to leave behind a strong legacy of student-led community collaboration and passion for STEM when I leave for MIT, and start the next chapter of my life.
Redefining what it means to be a champion.