List of opportunities, grants, fellowship programs, contests and things like that for young ambitious people

When I was in middle school, I used to spend a lot of time on Quora, where I learned about grants, fellowships, science fairs, contests, summer programs, internships, and so many other interesting and exciting opportunities. I did go on to pursue some of them — I’ve applied for grants for my project (and received Emergent Ventures and Helium Grant!), attended MIT Launch summer program, and did two engineering internships.

I believe that opportunities like the ones I’ve mentioned below can be a fantastic way to meet other smart and ambitious people, find mentorship, get funding for projects, get new ideas, learn lots, and get recognition for your work!

Grants/Funding:

  1. Pioneer grant
  2. Emergent Ventures
  3. Thiel Fellowship ($100k for 2 years)
  4. 1517fund grant
  5. Davidson Fellowship. Note: You need to be a US citizen or green card holder.
  6. Helium Grant ($1k)
  7. Cards against humanity STEM scholarship for a woman
  8. Cisco $300k Global Problem Solver Challenge
  9. 8VC Social Innovators Cup
  10. Palantir Women in Technology Scholarship
  11. Y Combinator startup incubator
  12. Einstein Fellowship

Science Fairs:

  1. Google Science Fair
  2. 3M Young Scientist Challenge
  3. Intel ISEF
  4. Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition
  5. EU Contest for Young Scientists

Contests:

  1. Paradigm Challenge
  2. IOI, IMO, IPhO, IChO, IBO, and other International Science Olympiads
  3. Breakthrough Junior Challenge
  4. The Diamond Challenge
  5. Google Code-in
  6. CES Young Innovators to Watch
  7. World of 7 billion student video contest

Summer Programs:

  1. RSI
  2. Wolfram Summer School
  3. SPARC (summer program on applied rationality and cognition)
  4. LaunchX (I went there in 2017 summer!)
  5. CSNE Young Scholars Program in Neuroengineering (I’m applying for it in 2019!)
  6. YYGS
  7. Stanford Pre-Collegiate
  8. Harvard Summer School
  9. Center for Talented Youth
  10. Northwestern Center for Talent Development
  11. Google Summer of Code

Other: 

  1. Hackathons! Online and in-person both. Find them on Devpost.
  2. NCWIT
  3. WWDC scholarship
  4. NVIDIA AI residency program
  5. The Recurse Center

Got any other ideas? Drop me a line at harshita@harshitaapps.com!

2018: Thoughts and reflections

2018 was my best year yet!

It was the year of I coded the most, sold my app, picked up new interests (brain-computer interfaces and electronics!), started learning Python and Machine learning, moved to San Francisco in a wonderful intellectual group house, got the O-1 visa, interned at DoNotPay, started working on a mind-controlled drone robot project, and most importantly changed and improved a lot as an engineer and thinker.

I started this blog about 3 months and only published four posts, which I feel bad about because I have a lot to say! So I spent a few hours on 31st December 2018 and today (2nd Jan 2019) reflecting on writing posts about things that happened to me this year. I’ve already published 6 posts and I’ll link to them here. I hope you enjoy reading them!

  1. Favorite places and restaurants in the Bay Area 
  2. Best books I read all year
  3. Hackathons I went to and what I built
  4. Best movies, TV shows, YouTube channels, blogs, comics, podcasts, Twitter people, and Quora writers
  5. Conferences and events I attended and what I learned  
  6. Projects I built this year

I’m very excited about 2019! I’m planning to do the AP exams in May and apply for undergrad college in the fall. I hope to finish developing a working prototype of my mind-controlled drone robot project and start testing it with my target audience (physically disabled people). And lastly, I hope to read more books, learn more, become a better engineer, and mature as a person. 

Since I came to San Francisco and started living in the Topos house, I’ve become so much more optimistic about my future! 🙂

Happy New Year to all the readers and their families and friends! I hope 2018 was as educational and entertaining for you as it was for me. If not, I hope things get better for you in 2019.

Feedback, comments, suggestions, and advice are all welcome: harshita@harshitaapps.com

2018: Projects I built this year

Software:

  1. Crypto Price Tracker (started working on it in late-2017 though; launched it this year)
  2. Food AI
  3. CellCount at YC hackathon
  4. DoNotPay iOS app as a summer intern
  5. Alice in codeLand for WWDC 2018 scholarship

Hardware/electronics:

  1. Arduino-controlled cockroach (failed)
  2. Digital voltmeter using Arduino
  3. Autonomous RC car at Science Hack Day!

Ongoing:

  1. Making an autonomous robot car using Raspberry Pi
  2. A mind-controlled drone robot

2018: Conferences and events I attended and what I learned

Moving to San Francisco in May 2018 made it possible for me to go to a lot of amazing and educational events and conferences. In order of quality of the conferences, I’ll list the conferences and events I went to and the highlights from them:

  1. BrainMind Summit 2018. A wonderful event with talks from pioneers in the field. I learned so much and made new friends. 
  2. SynBioBeta 2018. I attended it during my birthday to learn more about synthetic biology. I learned about a few biotech companies, researchers in the field, and more, but didn’t go in-depth on anything. 
  3. SF Debate Club. Started by Saku and Zak. The first debate topic was whether China’s technology is a threat to Silicon Valley and the US (I think it’s not). The second debate was whether the great stagnation is real (I think it is). 
  4.  1517fund workshop. One day long discussion group on some readings from Peter Thiel’s Stanford class on globalization
  5. Modern Microscopy: 20th and 21st-century breakthroughs in biology. Interesting topic; unengaging speaker.
  6. TechCrunch Disrupt 2018. Got a free ticket from my friend, Amulya who won the Disrupt hackathon! I could only attend one of the days and it was a big “meh”. I didn’t learn anything substantial from the various talks, didn’t meet anyone interesting, and just went home after 6 hours of rushing around to attend talks and workshops and getting lots of swag from Startup Alley (:P). I think TC Disrupt is like the Times Square in NYC — a platform that gets people to pay for companies to market themselves under the veil of entertainment (in case of Times Square) or education (in case of Disrupt). I’m sure I’d have gotten a lot of value if I had a startup and was presenting at the Startup Alley. But if you’re going to TC Disrupt to learn something, prepare to be disappointed. Most talks are just founders promoting their startups with a buzzword every few seconds.

In addition to the conferences and events mentioned above, the group house I live in, Topos, organizes a dinner every Sunday where we learn from each other. We also invite experts to give a talk and host Q/A with them. We had Glen Weyl who gave a talk before the launch of his book, Radical Markets, Hollis Robbins who led a wonderful dinner on poetry, etc. I personally invited Tyler Cowen and Ron Schnell to give talks at Topos! 

2018: Best movies, TV shows, YouTube channels, blogs, comics, podcasts, Twitter people, and Quora writers

Inspired by Alexey Guzey’s post about his favorite movies, TV shows, books, podcasts, and music

In order of how much I enjoyed/learned from them:

Movies:

  1. Back to the Future trilogy (yes, I watched it for the first time in 2018)
  2. Ready Player One
  3. The Imitation Game
  4. Stand and Deliver
  5. Hidden Figures
  6. The Matrix trilogy (yes, I watched it for the first time in 2018)
  7. The Man who knew infinity
  8. Idiocracy
  9. A beautiful mind
  10. GATTACA

TV:

  1. Genius TV show Season 1
  2. Halt and Catch Fire Season 1
  3. Silicon Valley Season 5

YouTube channels:

  1. Bill Wurtz. Recently discovered this channel and absolutely love it. It’s very weird and eccentric. The History of the entire world video is one of my favorites. 
  2. CrashCourse. Chemistry and Biology playlists are amazing. 
  3. MIT OCW
  4. freeCodeCamp. Nice Python video.
  5. 3blue1brown 
  6. acapellascience. Molecular Shape of you is my favorite.
  7. Julia Galef. Love her videos explaining rationality and different paradoxes. 
  8. Simone Giertz
  9. The Organic Chemistry Tutor. Helped me practice for the SAT. 
  10. Domain of Science
  11. Breakthrough 
  12. Ray Wenderlich
  13. Deanna See
  14. Raspberry Pi YouTube channel
  15. Marginal University
  16. engineerguy. I watched The Chemical History of Candle series when making candles for Christmas with my friend. 
  17. TED, TEDx, and TEDEd channels are pretty good

Blogs/newsletters:

  1. Marginal Revolution
  2. Uri Shaked’s 
  3. Aaron Swartz. Fav post: Be more productive. 
  4. Logan Collins 
  5. freeCodeCamp Medium publication 
  6. Alexey Guzey. Fav posts: What should you do with your life?, Research Ideas, and Where does talent come from
  7. NeuroTechX
  8. Nadia Eghbal 
  9. Peter Norvig. Teach yourself programming in 10 years. 
  10. CoMotion
  11. Devon Zuegel
  12. Michael Nielsen
  13. Quanta Magazine
  14. Nintil
  15. WaitButWhy. Fav posts: Neuralink, Elon Musk series, and Cryonics
  16. LessWrong 
  17. Spencer Greenberg. Fav post: Making hard decisions. 
  18. Jake Seliger
  19. Medium’s personalized weekly newsletter. 
  20. Benjamin Reinhardt 

Comics:

  1. Existential Comics
  2. Saturday Morning Breakfast Comics
  3. xkcd
  4. Hyperbole and a half 
  5. Dilbert

Podcasts:

I love listening to podcasts when commuting or in flights or eating. Learning is so much fun!

  1. Neural Implant podcast. 
  2. Conversations with Tyler. Fav episodes: Peter Thiel and Patrick Collison
  3. a16z 
  4. Rationally Speaking. Fav episodes: Ed Boyden and Spencer Greenberg
  5. David Perell. Fav episodes: Daniel Gross, Tyler Cowen, and Michael Nielsen
  6. Anatomy of Next. Fav episodes: Biotech 

Twitter people:

People on Twitter whose tweets I learned the most from: 

  1. Patrick Collison
  2. Tyler Cowen
  3. Saku P
  4. Michael Nielsen
  5. Alexey Guzey 
  6. Ed Boyden
  7. Daniel Gross
  8. Laura Deming
  9. Noah Tye
  10. Star Simpson
  11. Adam Marblestone 
  12. Nick Arner
  13. Joshua Browder
  14. Athena Kan
  15. Will Manidis
  16. Balaji Srinivasan
  17. Nadia Eghbal
  18. NASA
  19. MIT CSAIL
  20. Ishabazz
  21. Existential Comics (although most of the content is satire)
  22. CTRL Labs
  23. Jose Artir
  24. freeCodeCamp
  25. Florent Crivello
  26. Nat Friedman

Quora Writers:

  1. Yohan John
  2. David Seidman
  3. Travis Addair
  4. Kay Aull
  5. Vladimir Novakovski
  6. Dima Korolev
  7. Tom Higgins
  8. Tikhon Jelvis
  9. Geffen Avraham
  10. Yishan Wong
  11. Brian Bi
  12. Chomba Bupe

2018: Hackathons I went to and what I built

In 2018, I went to 2 hackathons (YC October hackathon and Science Hack Day) as a hacker and 2 hackathons as a speaker and judge (CryptoChicks and Violet Hacks).

YC October Hackathon 

I didn’t like YC hackathon one bit. Too many businesspeople and product managers pitching their ambitious sounding ideas and making simple prototypes in InvisionApp or worse, Powerpoint presentation. Only about 25% of the attendees were actually technical people. I ended up joining a team building software to count cells in a photo for biologists. We built a very simple iOS app that would return a photo marked with white circles around a photo (using OpenCV). 

Science Hack Day

Absolutely loved Science Hack Day! Wonderful people, brilliant ideas, working prototypes, and my team won a prize!

I had a few project ideas but I decided that the best idea would be to join a great team working on either brain-computer interfaces or autonomous vehicles so I could learn from people who’ve been working in the fields for longer. After much searching around, I decided to join the team working on making two autonomous RC cars and mess around with them with swapped inputs (like car B acting on car A’s input). I liked the people and the project idea! The hackathon started with a few talks by some amazing speakers like Helen Lurie (who works at Lyft Level 5 self-driving car division), Lenore Edman from Evil Mad Scientist, and Indre Viskontas. 

After the talks, we got to work. We started out buying two RC cars and started dismantling them so we could control its motors with an Arduino. After that, I started working on an iOS app that’d be the “eyes” of the cars. The camera input would be classified (I used the ResNet50 model through CoreML) and we selected a few objects we were going to put on the track of the cars and I wrote a simple conditional that’d send a Boolean value 1 to the backend if an obstacle was detected and Boolean value 0 if none were. The backend communicated with the Arduino controlling the motors. By the end of Day 1, we had an almost working car. We decided to pivot to make just one car that’s autonomous instead of the original plan of two cars. 

Day 2 was all the presentations. We presented and our demo worked for 2 obstacles but failed at the third one because the battery died. But since the project worked, they awarded us “Best in Public Safety”!  

Some photos! 

No automatic alt text available.
Our project: an autonomous RC car that uses a smartphone camera for obstacle detection
Image may contain: 9 people, including Jeff Catania and Meng Shang, people smiling, people standing
After being awarded! 🙂

For 2019, I have Developer’s Camp, TreeHacks, and Science Hack Day on my calendar! If you have any suggestions for hackathons I should go to or if you’d like to hack with me, let me know at harshita@harshitaapps.com!

2018: Best books I read all year

The favorite book of the year award goes to: Logicomix! I will publish a detailed review of it soon. This isn’t the most impactful book you can read, but it’s a very enjoyable and thought-provoking book. 

Here’s a list of the books I enjoyed and learned the most from in 2018. This list has no order. 

Non-fiction : 

  1. Coders at Work. My favorite interview was the one with Peter Norvig. Liked it so much that I ordered 5 copies of it and gifted it to my “judge-favorite” team at Violet Hacks hackathon.
  2. Red Notice 
  3. The Teenage Liberation Guide
  4. The Brain by David Eagleman. More of a philosophy book than neuroscience, but an enjoyable read nonetheless. 
  5. Founders at Work. Favorite interview: Max Levchin. 
  6. Bad Blood. The book is very engaging and so it’s hard to put it down once you start reading. When I recommended it to a mentor, he replied, “figured it was about pretty obvious stuff not to do; whereas I like to look for unexpected things to do”. Are there any books about *successful* biotech startups besides Sally Hughes’ Genentech? 
  7. Thinking and reasoning: a very short introduction.
  8. The Art of Living by Epictetus. Nifty.

Scientific:

The textbooks in this list are not finished since they’re usually very long and each chapter takes several days to completely grasp all the concepts and the problems at the end take their time too. But since most of my time this year was spent with textbooks, I think I should mention all the ones I read and worked through at least three chapters from!

  1. Soonish by Zach and Kelly Weinersmith. A wonderful chapter on brain-computer interfaces!
  2. Brain-computer interfacing by Rajesh Rao. The only good textbook on BCIs. It’s the most in-depth resource to learn about EEG-based BCIs, IMO. 
  3. Chemistry by Zumdahl and Zumdahl
  4. Fundamentals of Physics by David Halliday et al.
  5. Calculus by Michael Spivak.
  6. Campbell Biology
  7. Principles of Neural Science by Eric Kandel
  8. Neuroscience by Mark Bear
  9. The cartoon guide to Calculus. I love the cartoon guide series! They’re so engaging and the concepts are well-explained. 
  10. The cartoon guide to Physics
  11. The cartoon guide to Chemistry
  12. Programming Arduino by Simon Monk
  13. Programming Raspberry Pi by Simon Monk
  14. The Electronics Cookbook by Simon Monk (fav electronics author) 
  15. Make electronics
  16. What’s your bio strategy? by John Cumbers and Karl Schmieder. I got a copy at SynBioBeta conference and read it during one of their after-parties. It’s a good collection of interviews of some of the pioneers in the synthetic biology space. 
  17. Letters to a young scientist. A very valuable book. If you’re young and interested in science, this is the first book you should read.
  18. The Secret Life of Science. Such an underrated book.
  19. The Brain: a very short introduction 
  20. The Scientists by John Gribbin
  21. What If?

Biographies:

  1. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance.

This year I didn’t read any fiction (that I can remember). But next year, I hope to read more science fiction (The Diamond Age, Life 3.0, The first 15 lives of Harry August, and more on my list!). I also want to spend more time reading books by economists. The Age of Em by Robin Hanson and Tyler Cowen’s books are on my list (his blog, Marginal Revolution, is one of my favorites). 

I’m currently reading Autonomy and this book by Scott Adams. 

If you have any suggestions of books that influenced you a lot, please send them at harshita@harshitaapps.com!