My first summer in college, I wasn’t just lucky enough to go home, but I was lucky enough to go home and give back to my community. Through the Wellesley Career Education Grants Program, I received the Susan Rappaport Knafel ’52 Internship Fund. I used the fund to take the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Kit (STEMKit) to India.
Developed in 2015, under the guidance of Senior Research Scientist Wendy Robeson, Ed.D., at the Wellesley Centers for Women, STEMKit is an affordable lab-in-a-box that aims to take hands-on science (biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental science) experimental learning to low-resourced schools and communities. Previously, STEMKit has been used in public schools in the rural outskirts of Accra, Ghana; Cairo, Egypt; a summer camp for Indigenous girls in Alaska; summer camps for 5,000 children in Nigeria; and with educational groups in Liberia.
Over two months in Hyderabad, a city in South India, I interacted with over 2,500 students in over 100 classrooms. They came from diverse backgrounds and spoke at least 10 different languages. I performed science experiments with students from 4th to 10th grade, tailored to their grade level, on topics ranging from pH to genetics and oscillatory motion to aerodynamics. Each student received their own set of materials to perform the experiments and also got to take the equipment home. At the same time, I also always made sure that every experiment had a back-up experiment in case it was not possible to perform or if we had extra time. In most cases the back-ups were helpful.
I started by reaching out to local schools that did not have proper science laboratories for their students. In fact, one of the schools I went to was the school I studied in. During the first week of the program, the students enjoyed the labs so much that we extended the program for two more weeks. Students would come back to me the next day and ask questions or tell me how they performed the experiments at their houses and show me their observations. Looking back, I wish I had this opportunity when I was in their school.
Another school I went to was a residential girls’ school run by the state government. Most of these students came from very ordinary backgrounds, and their parents might never have had access to education. Most of them had never even been to another state in India, much less had the opportunity to travel internationally. Telling them that I study at Wellesley and explaining to them the power of a Wellesley education was deeply empowering, and I wish that I had more time with them. I can only hope to go back and serve as a local role model and help uplift more lives. The questions the girls asked me about education, Wellesley, what they can do after school, and what kind of subjects they can study, as well as the conversations we had, will continue to inspire me every day.
What initially started out as a summer internship turned into something much more. I hope that the 40 minutes every student spent in my classroom will help them in one way or another, but the time I spent with all of them has taught me things I will never forget!
Shreeya Lakkapragada is a psychology and computer science major at Wellesley College graduating in 2026. Senior Research Scientist Wendy Wagner Robeson, Ed.D., worked with a group of Wellesley College students to develop STEMKit (formerly called SeedKit) in 2015.
When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.