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Local CS Students Team Up to Save Endangered Snow Leopards in the Himalayas

Written by: Abimalek Mekuriya and Taran Srikonda

Edited by: Daan Eeltink and Saketh Vangara

November 30th, 2022

Six months ago, students from diverse backgrounds and education levels joined forces to save snow leopards that patrol the high-altitude mountains of the Himalayas. Today, they are inspiring other Loudoun students to join forces by applying their Computer Science skills at Kashmir World Foundation. At the Elevate Loudoun Conference & Internship Fair on November 1, 2022, eight students took the stage to share their journey and inspire others to use their technical skills for big missions. These interns aspire to inspire other students to apply their skills to real-world applications by participating in internship programs.

Abimalek Mekuriya speaking at Elevate Loudoun Conference & Internship Fair .

From the comfort of their homes, these students had the opportunity to apply their acquired knowledge in an outside-of-school environment and consider real-life problems from a unique angle by interning at Kashmir World Foundation. They claimed these experiences to be invaluable as they were required to leave their comfort zone and grow like never before. Working with a virtual team of international students for a considerable amount of time enabled them to improve their communication skills as well as get accustomed to a professional environment where the success of the team depends on every one of its members. Additionally, they received extensive exposure to state-of-the-art technologies and their use outside of the classroom. Their experiences served as an effective pathway that fostered their enthusiasm for one of their many interests, making the internship a double-edged sword. One side being that the students learned to apply new technologies to real-world applications and the other being the skill of learning itself which will prove essential to furthering their careers.

Multiple KwF Interns answering questions at the Elevate Loudoun Conference & Internship Fair .

These students were asked a number of questions about their experiences at their internship, some of the more common questions were:

“How time-consuming is the internship?”

“During the summer we would often have weekly meetings where we would assign work, after which the intern could then complete that task any time of their choosing within that one week, these tasks usually required 1-3 hours of work per week. During the winter months most of the interns are busy which leads us to having biweekly or monthly meetings with half the amount of work. The internship is very manageable.” - Abi

“What qualifications would one need in order to be a strong applicant for KwF?”

“Qualifications for our applicants generally differ based on which team you may be applying to. Specifically for the Orion Team, we are searching for individuals who not only share a passion for computer science but have a general background in computer science/app development and who can easily adapt to new applications we may use!” - Taran

Kashmir Pandolfi speaking at the Elevate Loudoun Conference & Internship Fair .

Moments after stepping down from the stage, the interns were approached by Mr. Nick Grzeda, head supervisor of Loudoun County’s Computer Science Team, who had been fascinated with the accomplishments of these students during the past six months. After asking a variety of questions regarding their views of the current computer science curriculum within the county, he offered them the opportunity to have a direct impact on its future. Some of the students recommended adding the option to test out of Computer Math, a mandatory introductory course of AP Computer Science A. Others suggested an internship-partnered class where seniors are allowed to simultaneously intern at the Kashmir World Foundation, providing them with a more hands-on experience. Having gone through the curriculum, these students are now in a unique position to provide valuable insight as to how teaching and learning Computer Science can be improved upon for future Loudoun County students. With their insights, Computer Science can further appeal to students' interests, in both its core concepts and intertwining with other areas of study.

During the span of just six months, these interns were able to make an impact on the world through their participation in an internship that pushed them to become dedicated, willing to learn, and passionate. Individuals looking to make a difference in their community should look to internships as a hands-on method of impacting their community and the world at large while simultaneously learning new skills. Those in the position to pursue their passions through internships should do so, not only for the impact that they can have on their environments but also for the impacts that the internships have on them.

All KwF speakers at the Elevate Loudoun Conference & Internship Fair gathered together.

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