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Q&A With Nikash Bhardwaj (SHP ’21)

From machine learning and building an app, to constructing a farm cart for SHS, Bhardwaj aims to effect positive change
SHS: Tell us about the relationships you’ve formed during your time at Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton (SHS).
 
Nikash Bhardwaj (SHP ’21): From the teachers I’ve had to the friends I’ve made—those relationships have fundamentally shaped who I am over the past four years. I came to SHS in the 6th grade; from day one, people on campus have been very welcoming, always lifting me up and challenging me academically to become a better thinker, better writer, and better mathematician. The academic competitiveness in the classroom fosters hard work, and there’s a diversity among my peers and teachers with different perspectives you can learn from. 
 
You have a special connection with the RSCJ community on campus at Oakwood—tell us about your involvement there.
 
As a part of the Sacred Heart Society, I’ve been interacting on a weekly basis with Sister Kathy Dolan for the past year. It’s been a great experience and I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her and getting to know her on a personal level. The main purpose of these weekly Zoom calls was to enable the Sisters at Oakwood to have personal interactions with others outside of Oakwood, which is very tough for them given the restrictions of the pandemic. However, I strongly feel that I benefited as much, if not more, during our weekly interaction as Sr. Dolan; this past year has been challenging and stressful as a senior and Sr. Dolan was the calming factor in my life. I always felt very relaxed and de-stressed after speaking with her. She is such a kind person, and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and will miss her tremendously. I’m planning to stay in touch through this summer and hopefully even when I go to college. 
 
What courses have stood out to you as favorites? 

My favorites would be AP calculus, AP physics, and computer science. I love STEM and anything computer science. 
 
This past fall semester, I did a Senior Honors Independent Study in machine learning that incorporated three different research projects: creating a facial recognition software similar to how a phone uses face identification; identifying buildings in satellite imagery; and comparing neural networks in machine learning and logistic regression, and seeing which one was better for different scenarios. 
 
Another highlight was Engineering for Good—in the fall of 2019 in AP physics 1, a few other students and I started a project to build an SHS farm cart, which looks sort of like a hot dog cart, with refrigeration on the bottom. It’s designed to take goods from the farm to easily distribute across campus and at various events. The farm has a need for this since it’s difficult having to make multiple trips to transport things like milk and eggs. The project got put on pause due to COVID-19, but coming back from remote learning I realized I wanted to finish it, even being the sole person working on it. Since this school has shaped me into the person that I am, I wanted to give back.
 
What are your plans for the summer and beyond?
 
The biggest thing will be finishing up another project I’ve been working on—merging the SHP ID app (for scanning cafeteria cards) with the SHP schedule app, so students don’t have to switch between the two apps. I’m also adding new features to make it modern and efficient.
 
In the fall, I’m headed to Carnegie Mellon University where I’m planning to study computer science. Ultimately, I want to do something in STEM, computer science, or physics to help others. Sacred Heart’s Goal III, a social awareness which impels to action, has really stuck with me—I’ve really taken Goal III to heart over the past four years. Being a part of the Peninsula Bridge program and tutoring children, being a student leader on the service trips to Puerto Rico, combined with the teachers I’ve had who motivated me to be a better person, have all made me want to dedicate my career to helping people through STEM. SHP has really uniquely prepared me to do that.
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Founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, SHS is a Catholic, independent, co-ed day school for students in preschool through grade 12