“We’re no longer called Gen-Z; we’re called Gen-S! Generation of Solvers!”- meet Siddharth Diwan, a grade XI student who has set an exemplifying path forward where technology meets purpose. Siddharth has won the 2019 Diana Award, the most prestigious accolade a young person aged 9-25 years can receive for their social action or humanitarian work.
Computer Science and Technology is a vast and ever-growing field, and it continues to govern the direction in which people are progressing in the 21st century. However, this technology is accessible to a very small section of society: the so called privileged. This stunted spread of computer literacy makes the accessibility to code literacy even lesser. It is with this thought process that Siddharth decided to venture into initiating the children of government schools, especially the ones who are denied access to technology, into coding.
Journey of Siddharth
“At Oakridge, we are constantly involved in activities beyond academics, especially as a part of CAS(Creativity, Activity, Service). As a part of community service and volunteering activity, I went to the Battalion Government School to teach children how to read English. I could have done something essentially minuscule and just ended it as a pet project, but being involved in activities like these made me realized the importance for ‘sustainability, beyond the scope of the project’- which is one of the mottos of CAS at Oakridge”, explains Siddharth.
When in Grade 8, “Reading Together” was Siddharth’s first project, where he was focused on one of the most basic necessities of today’s world- reading and writing. While overcoming some of the hurdles in this project, he was introduced to the Hyderabad Chapter of the India Literacy Program (ILP), which plays an active role in eradicating illiteracy. Together with ILP, he organized visits to the school to help children with their verbal communication skills and and enhance their reading skills.
Handlooms: Our Pride and Privilege
In 2018, Siddharth collaborated with Suraiya Bose, owner of Suraiya Aapa’s Weaving Studio to focus on the imperative need to revive the handloom industry and save it from being a slow dying art. Through his time spent while understanding the handlooms domain, he discovered multiple plights revolving handlooms. This touching video explains the journey of handloom making and its challenges:
Fun fact: The music in this video was created by Siddharth himself. Talk about being self-sufficient.
Breaking Barriers: One Line of Code At a Time
Hailing from a family of computer science background, Siddharth took a keen interest in coding. Understanding how fun and easy it is to code, Siddharth wanted to introduce the world of coding to the underprivileged kids. When asked about how he got this idea implemented, he said, “best way to teach children about computers is through code, and what better way to make someone understand code than games!”
“I used games to make them see that coding is a world that is not restricted to the privileged, but it is something that any body can understand and play with. I played PUBG with the children and asked them what I was doing when I toggled on screen to move. They replied, ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘front’, and ‘back’, and all it took me was to break it down in simple steps to them, that coding is nothing but defining the actions being performed. Later, they tried their hands on creating the code for Angry Birds on code.org. Soon enough, the children got so excited about the simplicity in coding that they began swarming around me with their own ideas!”, he added.
To overcome the language barriers, Siddharth learnt a bit of the local language(Telugu) and made a document which translates code written in English to Telugu. When asked what his specific motive was for this project, he said, “I wanted to teach kids a thing or two in a way that makes sense. So all I strived for was to stimulate their creativity and break the barrier of the preconceived notion about computers as a subject, being accessible to only the privileged. Hence, the name Breaking Barriers: One Line of Code at a Time”.
Recognition of True Spirit of Humanitarian Activities
Previously, Siddharth secured a Bronze medal at the national level in Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards for his community service. He was also one of the 5 students chosen across India who bagged the Wheaton College Global Leaders Program Scholarship. Adding another feather to his cap is the prestigious 2019 Diana Award - Honor Roll and is now qualified for the Legacy Award. In the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, this is a prestigious award felicitated to outstanding young people selflessly creating and sustaining positive social change. He will also be presented with an invitation to Althorp House, Princess Diana’s childhood home.
What Inspires The Young Minds
Young people do not work towards the award, rather they demonstrate their suitability through their actions, without any expectation of reward. When asked about his inspiration for all the projects he has done, he said, “behind every one of my projects, there has always been an intention to strive for social change. My projects are pivoted around technology with a purpose. One common aspect that I strive for in my projects is sustainability. It is the backbone of all my endeavors and it is keeping this in mind that I take forward all my efforts.”
His Future Plans
“Music and Sciences are my true passions. I have always been fascinated by how technology can be related with raw sciences. It is for this reason that I wish to pursue sciences in the future, and explore the application of such interdisciplinary learning in astrophysics.”, explains Siddharth.
Siddharth believes that one never stops learning and says, “with Breaking Barriers, the fact that the children so smilingly hauled their burdens over their shoulders made me think of how I was so fortunate to experience this magic. Unarguably, I went a teacher and came back a learner.”