My name is Dhruv Balaji. I am a high school student who is interested in medicine as a career, while also being passionate about robotics, saxophone, and tennis.
Throughout middle school, I tried to surround myself with science. I attended summer programs, took classes, and participated in clubs. It was great, but it wasn’t enough. Who was I helping by going to a class? What impact was I making?
Despite my age, I wanted to make an impact, no matter how big. I started volunteering at local nursing homes helping the residents: running bingo games, playing the saxophone, and socializing with the residents through games and activities. I loved seeing them smile after every performance, after every bingo win, and after every bite of ice cream.
Shortly after, I started volunteering with a local tennis club, teaching children with autism. I was nervous at first, unsure of what to expect. However, after I started, I found myself having a lot of fun. Most of all, I found value in the social interactions I was having with the kids. They all had different levels of autism, and different amounts of tennis skills, but there was one common theme I continuously saw in all of the kids. No matter what they were doing, who they were with, or how they were doing it, they were always extremely happy to be there. They always smile, never complain, and most importantly, always find the good in a situation. I remember one experience very vividly:
At the end of the class, the kids were told to pick up the balls, which were scattered across the court. A normal tennis player would normally groan when hearing this. These kids, however, immediately grabbed the cart where the balls were supposed to go, and started wheeling it around, pretending it was a car and racing it around. As they sprinted around the court, they picked up the balls with amazing efficiency, while having a blast.
After months of spending time with the kids, I realized that I was more interested in the autistic than I thought I was.
I knew that there were countless amounts of STEAM classes in my area that anyone could pay for. However, I did not know of one that would be compatible with an autistic kid. Since they learned slower, they would not be able to follow a normal class. With all of the recent advancements in the STEAM world, it was almost given that children experience STEAM for themselves. I wasn’t sure how kids with autism could experience these things. I wanted to contribute to the opportunities they had, so I started Spectrum Robotics. I aim to involve autistic kids in the STEAM world, so they have more opportunities, more exposure to technology, and most importantly, more passion for science.