My STEM Story: Aman Shaik

Aman used his ability and passion for robotics to teach workshops and bridge cultural gaps.


Malala Yousafzai once stated, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” It is said that once you teach someone a concept you tend to learn the concept better.

My robotics journey started when I was a 3rd grader. I have loved building Legos as a child but watching my Legos come to life was astounding. I started to get involved in multiple robotics Lego league teams through a program called FLL (FirstLego League). Each robotic season we had a new robot with a new name and built it depending on the certain theme.

After all those many years of building robots with Legos it was time to move on to more complex robots. When I became a 7th grader, I began to build robots out of metal pieces and enrolled in First Tech Challenge.

I volunteered at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, Florida showcasing these Lego robots. Children were baffled when they saw these objects driving on the floor. At this time, I realized it was time to teach robotics in underprivileged areas.

India, a developing country, is a beautiful place. It’s a place like no other. For someone traveling there every year since a toddler it’s a place you can’t miss. I decided to serve as a youth ambassador for the North South Foundation’s APNA program. My mom is from Hyderabad, so I decided to volunteer at the Vidyaniketan School. I remember walking into the classroom and everyone standing upright as if they were soldiers and stated, “Good morning, brother!” I found this very surprising since they were relatively the same age as me.

I first began teaching 8th graders the robotics workshop. The first day they built the robots and found it fun. The boys and girls were split into separate groups and the girls built the robots faster due to their organization and cooperation. The boys group had some commotion because they were deeply engaged. The next day we programmed the robots using the software on the computers I had brought.

One thing that stood out to me was the pride they showed when they finished. It was such a great thing to see. The boys and girls individually showed the principal their robot and how it moved.

Word about the workshop grew quickly. The 9th graders saw the robots and wanted to participate. They individually talked to the academic director and stated that they wanted to experience this workshop. They were given the chance and I did the same workshop for the 9th graders.

They asked me if I knew Hindi and Urdu. It was a big deal for them to see someone their age but from a different country. I felt great that I had helped some kids that did not have the learning experiences I had as a child.

Overall, The Congressional Award has motivated me to give back to the global community. It is a humbling experience to have the opportunity to help others and to make a difference. The Congressional Award opened my eyes regarding time management and tracking. I now keep track of not just my volunteer, personal development, and physical fitness but also time spent on academics, with friends and family, etc.

I made new friends overseas and made an impact on over 50 kids the same age as me. What I did was a simple thing that anyone can do. Anyone can change someone’s life for good.

Learn more about The Congressional Award STEM Stars program.

Southern California Student Leaders Earn Congress’ Award for Youth

Yorba Linda, CA (November 14, 2019) — On Saturday, November 9, 2019, The Congressional Award Southern California Ceremony presented by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. recognized nearly 200 student leaders for personal goal-setting and acts of citizenship.

U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (CA-27), Gil Cisneros (CA-39), and Katie Porter (CA-45) presented the awards on behalf of the United States Congress at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.

U.S. Representatives Chu and Porter present The Congressional Award Silver Medal to Thomas Williamson of Anaheim Hills.

“It is my privilege to honor these incredible youth with The Congressional Award, the highest award for youth legislated and presented by the United States Congress,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu. “In order to qualify, these honorees have volunteered their time to achieve goals in public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration. I have been so impressed by the creativity and care demonstrated by these young people. Their devotion to success is a benefit to our entire area, and an example to others. Congratulations!”

The event was made possible by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., who served as the Title Sponsor. On a journey of creativity and innovation for more than 95 years, the San Francisco based global pharmaceutical business has not only discovered and developed treatments for complex medical conditions – but made a deliberate effort to engage youth in local communities.

Congressman Cisneros delivers remarks the recipients and guests.

Congressman Cisneros delivers remarks the recipients and guests.“I want to congratulate all 22 recipients of The Congressional Award for California’s 39th district,” said Congressman Gil Cisneros. “I am constantly impressed by the abundance of talented youth in our community. Their unwavering commitment to improving themselves and others around them is truly inspiring. The Congressional Award program has challenged our youth, and it is great to see CA-39 students answering the call and not only exceeding, but demonstrating that they will be future leaders. It was a privilege to recognize each of the awardees accomplishments and join their families in celebration.”

The ceremony also borrowed the talents of FOX 5 San Diego’s Chris Murphy as master of ceremonies.

After the ceremony, recipients and guests were able to tour the presidential library and museum.

“As a UC Irvine professor, I’ve witnessed up close and personal the tenacity and compassion of young people in our community,” Congresswoman Katie Porter said. “I was proud to recognize the accomplishments of the 187 Congressional Award recipients from Southern California, and I look forward to seeing what they’ll accomplish in the future.”

Congressional Awardees receive recognition for their accomplishment.

Congressional Awardees receive recognition for their accomplishment.California ranks number one in both the number of enrolled participants and Congressional Awards earned annually. The Golden State’s 24th-53rd congressional districts have produced 7,431 awardees all-time. There are currently 6,535 participants pursuing the award in the region. The 187 Congressional Award Medalists honored this year contributed 38,749 hours of voluntary public service to their communities.

Download the program for event details and full recipient list.

About
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

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Reps. Malinowski, Payne, Jr. Honor New Jersey Youth with The Congressional Award

Summit, NJ (September 26, 2019) — Nearly 100 New Jersey student leaders were recognized by Congress for their personal goal setting and community service at a statewide Congressional Award ceremony held on Saturday, September 21, 2019.

U.S. Representatives Tom Malinowski (NJ-07) and Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) presented the awards on behalf of Congress.

“I want to congratulate all 98 recipients of The Congressional Award for New Jersey,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “I was excited to give our youth such a prestigious honor. I know it was not easy to earn. But they showed tremendous character in their commitment to the goals they set for the program. I am very proud of them and look forward to being part of the ceremony again next year.”

Congressman Malinowksi assured guests that the future was in good hands with these students assuming leadership roles. “This country belongs to you, the young people. And it’s up to you to make it better. And that’s what you all have done – you’ve decided you must step up and do something.”

Anesha Santhanam of Edison, NJ receives the Silver Medal from U.S. Representatives Payne, Jr. and Malinowski and Celgene’s Patrick Gliha and Rich Bagger.

The event was made possible by Celgene Corporation, who once again served as the Title Sponsor and host venue. The global biopharmaceutical company has become a perennial partner of Congress’ award program for youth by supporting the development of the program both locally and nationally.

Celgene’s Rich Bagger, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs & Market Access, and Patrick Gliha, Senior Director of State Government Relations and a member of The Congressional Award’s Board of Directors, were on hand to congratulate this year’s honorees.

The ceremony borrowed the talents of WABC-TV journalist Anthony Johnson as master of ceremonies.

Attendees look on as Congressman Payne, Jr. delivers his remarks.

New Jersey remains one of the most active states in The Congressional Award’s national portfolio, ranking within the top ten states in both the number of enrolled participants and number of awards earned. The Garden State has produced 6,622 awardees all-time. There are currently 4,563 participants pursuing the award. The 98 New Jersey Congressional Award Medalists being honored this year have contributed 22,634 hours of voluntary public service to their communities.

Learn more about this year’s recipients with the ceremony program and photo gallery.

About
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

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North Carolina Student Leaders Recognized by Congress for Goalsetting and Volunteer Efforts

Concord, NC (August 12, 2019) — Today, U.S. Representatives Alma Adams (NC-12) and Richard Hudson (NC-08) co-hosted the 2019 North Carolina Congressional Award Ceremony.

65 youth from across the state were presented with The Congressional Award, Congress’ highest honor for youth. Each recipient challenged themselves personally and engaged with their communities by setting goals in four program areas – Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/Exploration.

Collectively, the students contributed a staggering 14,556 hours of volunteerism to communities near and far.

Congresswoman Adams and Congressman Hudson presented the awards on behalf of the United States Congress and lauded the recipients for taking initiative and considering others in their decision-making.

“As a member of The Congressional Award’s Board of Directors, I am proud to celebrate our state’s youth and their incredible achievements,” said Congressman Richard Hudson. “I was honored to help recognize and congratulate these young men and women for their success and service to our community. They are the leaders of tomorrow.”

“It is my honor and privilege to present The Congressional Award to the promising young North Carolinians who earned this recognition in 2019,” said Congresswoman Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. “Each of these young leaders’ dedication to personal development and public service is positively impacting communities across North Carolina. It is because of committed young people like this year’s award recipients that I know the future of our democracy is bright.”

The event was made possible by the generosity and leadership of Smithfield Foods, Inc., a global consumer packaged goods and protein company that employs more than 10,000 individuals throughout North Carolina. Smithfield has been involved with The Congressional Award since 2015, and returns this year as the Title Sponsor of the 2019 North Carolina Congressional Award Ceremony. The company maintains a robust sustainability program that includes a dedicated focus on supporting the communities where its employees live and work through engagement, volunteerism, and financial support.

“Smithfield Foods’ ongoing support of The Congressional Award reflects our commitment to the same values that the Award upholds,” said Mike Skahill, Vice President of Government Affairs at Smithfield Foods and Congressional Award Foundation board member. “Each of the Congressional Award recipients dedicates themselves in service to their local communities, a parallel to the importance we place on supporting our neighbors in the communities we call home. We are proud to support all of these efforts that help build a stronger tomorrow for everyone.”

Charlotte Motor Speedway served as the host venue and granted awardees and guests special access to facilities, including The Speedway Club and racetrack.

Aric Almirola, NASCAR driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing, served as keynote speaker and local WSOC-TV Anchor Allison Latos volunteered her time as emcee.

North Carolina remains one of the most dynamic states in The Congressional Award’s portfolio, with the Charlotte metropolitan area ranking in the top 10 fastest growing regions. The Tar Heel State has produced 2,128 awardees all-time and there are currently 2,369 participants pursuing the award.

The ceremony program and list of Congressional Award recipients can be found here.

About The Congressional Award
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

About Smithfield Foods
Smithfield Foods is a $15 billion global food company and the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. In the United States, the company is also the leader in numerous packaged meats categories with popular brands including Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Nathan’s Famous®, Farmland®, Armour®, Farmer John®, Kretschmar®, John Morrell®, Cook’s®, Gwaltney®, Carando®, Margherita®, Curly’s®, Healthy Ones®, Morliny®, Krakus®, and Berlinki®. Smithfield Foods is committed to providing good food in a responsible way and maintains robust animal care, community involvement, employee safety, environmental and food safety and quality programs. For more information, visit www.smithfieldfoods.com and connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

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Reps. Allred, Granger, Veasey Host Texas Ceremony, Announce Fort Worth ISD Initiative

Congressional Awardees pose outside of the Dallas Museum of Art with U.S. Representatives Colin Allred, Kay Granger, and Marc Veasey.

Dallas, TX — On Saturday, May 4, 2019, Members of the Texas congressional delegation hosted a statewide Congressional Award ceremony and introduced a new initiative between Congress’ award program for youth and the Fort Worth Independent School District.

The Dallas Museum of Art served as the host venue, welcoming awardees and their guests to a reception and award ceremony.

The event was made possible by the generosity of partners like American Airlines, G2 Secure Staff, Lockheed Martin, Magdaleno Leadership Institute, and Mr. Jorge Baldor.

In addition to honoring youth recipients for personal goal-setting and community service, the event served as a launch for The Congressional Award’s partnership with the Fort Worth Independent School District. The two organizations unveiled their plan to equip North Texas teens with tangible skills and resources necessary to bridge the gap between classroom success and career preparation.

Read more about the FWISD partnership here.

Left to Right: Julie Gostic of G2 Secure Staff, Congressional Award Chairman Paxton Baker, Congresswoman Kay Granger, Gold Medalist siblings Raheem and Rehman Memon, Congressman Colin Allred, Congressman Marc Veasey.

“Over four decades, The Congressional Award program has displayed an unparalleled ability to empower young adults to prepare for life outside the classroom,” said Congressman Marc Veasey. “Regardless of ability, circumstance, or socioeconomic status, The Congressional Award recognizes the effort, initiative, and achievement students make.

The Foundation also recognized Texas A&M University assistant professor Dr. Hector Rivera with the Education Champion Award for his contributions to teaching, public service, and guiding students to achieve excellence.

Illustrating the significance of community and partnership, Congressional Award Board Member and motivational speaker Mateo Magdaleno reminded awardees that it takes a village to achieve personal success. “Although we stand as one person, we must never forget we are representing thousands of people – entire communities, families that have supported you, and educators who have served as your mentors.”

Congressional Awardees and guests look on as the ceremony unfolds.

This year’s ceremony honored 89 recipients across the Lone Star State. Texas remains one of the most active in The Congressional Award’s portfolio with 3,304 awardees all-time, 80,100 service hours in 2018 (8% of national total), and 4,213 current participants (ranked 2nd in number of participants, only trailing California).

The ceremony program and list of Congressional Award recipients can be found here.

Free, high resolution photos are available to view and download here.

About
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

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Senator Wyden Presents The Congressional Award, Highlights Student Creativity in STEM

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden provides remarks to Congressional Awardees and guests.

Portland, OR — The inaugural Oregon Statewide Congressional Award Ceremony took place on Friday, April 12, 2019 at KinderCare Learning Centers Corporate Offices in Portland, Oregon.

United States Senator Ron Wyden recognized student leaders with Congressional Award Medals and offered a Q&A for constituents to address today’s most pressing issues and local opportunities.

“I am incredibly inspired by these amazing young Oregonians and the outstanding public service they have provided in our state,” Wyden said. “Each richly deserves their Congressional Awards and I thank The Congressional Award program for recognizing them and so many other young people around the country working hard to make their communities better.”

Senator Wyden presents Caleb Jacobson with the Bronze Medal.

KinderCare Education’s Chief Executive Officer, Tom Wyatt, and Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer and Congressional Award Board Member, Kelsey Troy, were on hand to support the youth honorees and reinforce their organization’s mission to provide quality early education.

Prior to the award ceremony, Senator Wyden traversed the city to participate in events that displayed the latest progress in student-led STEM activities. He served as a special guest at the Intel Northwest Science Expo hosted by Portland State University as well as a science experiment with children and their teachers at KinderCare in downtown Portland.

Bronze Medalist Quinn McElroy-Fuchs with Senator Wyden, The Congressional Award’s Erica Heyse, and KinderCare’s Tom Wyatt and Kelsey Troy.

Quinn McElroy-Fuchs earned not only The Congressional Award Silver Medal but was also presented with a STEM Star for creating Operation Tooth Fairy, a Girl Scout Gold Award project that brings dental care information and dental supplies to low-income families in the Greater Portland area.

“The Congressional Award has really taught me about the importance of goal setting. Even if a goal seems out of reach if you put the time and effort in to work at it piece by piece, you will be surprised by the impact you can make,” said Quinn.

By collaborating with partners like KinderCare, The Congressional Award STEM Stars Initiative aims to stoke passion for science and math and help make STEM more approachable. Priorities include educating students to be leaders and innovators in emerging and rapidly changing STEM fields as well as educating a scientifically literate populace.

Bronze Medalist Aayush Bhatt shares his Congressional Award story.

Oregon Congressional Award Recipients:
Martin Berger of Portland (Silver Medal)
Aayush Bhatt of Beaverton (Bronze Medal)
Akash Bindalof Beaverton (Bronze Medal)
Caleb Jacobson of Portland (Bronze Medal)
Rachel Luther of Hood River (Gold Medal)
Quinn McElroy-Fuchs of Portland (Silver Medal)
Patrick Townsend of Portland (Gold Medal)
Timothy Townsend of Portland (Silver Medal)

About
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

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