Indian Computer Whiz Kid Brings Cheer Amid Gloom

July 7, 2008 - 8:11 PM

Jaipur, India ( - In the midst of concerns about terrorism and fears of outright war in South Asia, one Indian 12th grader's success story has helped dispel the mood of gloom for many people here.

Akshat Singhal has won a top individual award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Louisville, Kentucky.

The principal of Akshat's Catholic school, Fr. Edward Oliveira, said the entire St. Anslem Pink City School was happy to bask in the boy's reflected glory.

Intel ISEF is the only international science fair for high school students. Every year, more than one million pupils in grades 9-12 compete in regional ISEF-affiliated science fairs worldwide.

Twelve-hundred of the best pupils from more than 40 countries go on to compete in 14 scientific categories for $3 million in prizes and scholarships.

In this year's fair, 50 leading scientists, acting as judges, chose Akshat's "Intelligent Document Management System" as the best individual project.

The special software organizes and stores digital documents in a way that makes their accessibility easier than ever before.

"My system allows a long title for the document, preview, multiple printing and compressed archiving of documents," the 16-year-old explained as he demonstrated the project on his return from the U.S.

"None of these features were available in the existing document management systems."

Akshat recalled that at the awards ceremony, America, China and European countries were getting most of the prizes.

"And then suddenly they announced Jaipur, Rajasthan [state] and India. I was thrilled, for I had made a mark for India at an international level."

Akshat said even NASA scientists had commented on the usefulness of his system. One NASA judge said it proved helpful in the space administration's document system.

Under ISEF, a range of governmental, industrial and educational institutions present grants, scholarships, internships, and scientific field trips to award winners.

Akshat received a $5,000 award from Agilent Technologies in the U.S. as well as an eight-week internship at the company's Indian headquarters near New Delhi.

Agilent is expected to offer him a full-time position after school.

"By the time I graduate from college, there could be whole departments working on the systems that I'm developing here," Akshat said.

Despite the exceptional achievements, Akshat remains modest.

"At ISEF, I could see people better than me and it was a humbling experience. At the same time, ISEF did make me happy about whatever I've done. It set me in the category of young geniuses from around the world, and that was an honor.

He had a teenager's words of encouragement for other talented young people, too.

"It came as a surprise to me that all of these people who are so good at high school science and math do not look like nerds at all. Most of the girls were very beautiful and most of the guys were handsome," he recalled.

"It's generally held that kids who are good at studies have these big glasses and do not take care of their appearance. That has changed now."

Akshat's award is the latest in a long list of achievements for this whiz kid, who became the world's youngest certified Lotus software professional last year. He has also designed more than 30 Internet websites, including one for his school.

In a country where an average family cannot afford a typewriter, Akshat's parents said they bought him a computer using family savings, "because we were convinced of his genius."

His mother, Sunita Singhal, said the years of toil had finally started to bear fruit.

"We did what was expected of us as parents but Akshat has performed beyond expectations. In fact, because of him, even I have become computer savvy!"

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