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Diversity in Tech
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5 min read
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August 23, 2021

Student Essay: How Simple Lines of Code Can Transform Lives

by

Adya Parida

High school senior, and Syracuse University-bound Anya Parida, sees a future in agriculture that can be responsibly innovated by AI.

As the curtains rise, I swirl across the stage, rhythm pulsating through my body. Draped in an ivory white, embellished silk saree, the movements of my upper torso symbolize waves and the graceful fluidity of my Odissi mudras (hand gestures) mimic swaying palm trees.

I have been dancing since I was three, but math always intrigued me.

As a 6th grader, I was amused to see a few lines of C++ code making beautiful fractal patterns and overlays—my first non-textbook application of math. “It’s beautiful!” I exclaimed, “but I can’t touch it!”.

One day, I got a hold of our old laptop and ripped it open to find an intricate network of tiny circuits and shiny green slips jotted with silver spots. My brother explained how the microscopic switches on the motherboard generate 0s and 1s to execute wonderful things. “Oh! So the laptop is the flesh and the motherboard the heart? “Yes!” he replied. I was elated to see how a tiny tangible chip breathes life into a powerful machine.

I first applied coding in the real world by teaching three women housekeepers SQL and GoogleSuite. Two of them now work as database managers, and one fondly recounts how she uses GoogleSheets to track crops grown and fertilizers used on her farm. Seeing her eyes sparkle with joy when she executed her programs successfully, I was astounded by how a few lines of code could empower marginalized women and transform their lives in a patriarchal society.

Thus, I feel compelled to study computer engineering. My mission as an engineer is to design intelligent AI systems to help farmers make rational decisions to optimize agriculture without compromising the sanctity of the environment or ethics in the process.

I want to expose myself to circuits, regression models, sensors, and their practical implementations. The wide range of AI specializations will teach me how to implement AI on data to identify solutions like estimating costs and risks, improving crop yield, and minimizing waste. Mathematical programming will teach me how to optimize systems of equations, a valuable skill for designing AI algorithms.

I want to take an interdisciplinary approach to research and have the freedom to explore diverse connections between STEM and humanities. For example, I want to work in horticulture using soft bio-robots in vineyard harvesting. Through the Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture, I am excited to deploy Deep Learning algorithms in bio-robots that use spatial statistics for real-time yield forecasting and predicting which genes will create a healthier plant.

Indian farms severely lack freshwater infrastructure. I want to develop sustainable irrigation systems crucial for meeting agricultural and potable water requirements in the world’s drought-prone areas.

As a responsible engineer, I have always been interested in strategically addressing ethical and privacy concerns in big data. Therefore, I will delve deeper into psychology and contextualize my work in engineering through information ethics, law and policy.

Whether designing a new algorithm or developing disaster-resilient irrigation systems in India, my greatest loyalty as an engineer is to humanity. Thus, I will immerse myself in the power of simple lines of code to transform lives.


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