This story is part of Newsday’s 2020 Extraordinary Seniors series showcasing 12 high school students from across Long Island with the vision and determination to transform their corners of the universe — and perhaps beyond. See more Extraordinary Seniors at newsday.com/extraordinaryseniors.
Sejal Gupta’s fourth-grade teacher Mr. Morris took the class to his Mustang to show them the energy transfers happening in the engine. “That’s when I started loving science,” Gupta said. Soon after, she was programming and experimenting with electronics.
“I love STEM. Engineers solve problems,” said Gupta, 18, who also happens to be Hicksville High School's valedictorian. In eighth grade she founded Entrepreneurship and Innovation Café, a nonprofit organization to excite children about technology and enterprise. Each year 50 to 60 students (kindergarten to eighth grade) have been learning programming, breadboarding (making an experimental circuit), prototyping and more, with Gupta teaching on Zoom during the pandemic.
“It warms my heart when a third-grader jumps because he or she finally debugged their code,” Gupta said.
Those students are in capable hands. “I remember how hard Sejal worked and how other students would go to her for help,” said Jason Cetron, her teacher in three classes and Science Olympiad coach. “She was one of the youngest, and one of two females.”
Two years ago Gupta began a project at Stony Brook University looking at AI and machine learning to improve the rehabilitation of those with walking problems. Now she is making a robotic exoskeleton. “Research taught me to be patient with my mistakes. Without them, new discoveries are never possible.”
Fun includes golf and mixed martial arts. “While she completes what she sets her mind to and completes it well, she is still a teenager, very chatty in class discussing the random shows she watches on Netflix,” said Stephanie Piscitelli, her social science teacher.
Gupta’s focused about her future: “I hope to start my own biotech company one day that develops personalized, intelligent prosthetics to help individuals walk their lives comfortably and easily.”
HIGHER ED: Gupta will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology to double major: computer science and engineering and business management.
FRESHMAN YEAR: “I am excited to explore aspects of knowledge I didn’t even know existed.”
DURING THE PANDEMIC, I LEARNED: “To be patient and resilient. While these unprecedented times took away events I was looking forward to, I am grateful to be healthy and safe.”