Five new students at Waterloo Engineering are starting their academic careers backed by $100,000 scholarships from a prestigious national organization.

Software engineering students Saptarshi Bhattacherya and Kushal Mujral, mechatronics engineering student Shanaya Barretto, Aung Khant Min of computer engineering and Dina Orucevic of systems design engineering are among 10 campus-wide winners of 2021 Schulich Leader Scholarships.

Recipients were chosen from a pool of more than 300,000 graduating high school students and 1,500 nominees from across the country based on grades, community leadership and participation in entrepreneurial ventures.

Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Schulich scholarship program is open to students studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) at 20 partner universities in Canada.

Saptarshi Bhattacherya, of Fort McMurray, Alberta, has been inspired to use technology to help people since he developed a visual aid for the deaf and hard of hearing that provides real-time transcription of spoken words.

Saptarshi Bhattacherya

He is impressed by the achievements of faculty members in both academia and industry, as well as the diverse, talented student body at Waterloo, and hopes to get experience during his co-op terms at at least one technology giant and one startup company.

“In the long term, I want to work on using AI to level the playing field for human beings,” Bhattacherya wrote in a questionnaire. “Essentially, I want to make sure that everyone can have access to the entirety of the human experience, regardless of what conditions they may have.”

Kushal Mujral, of Delta, B.C., was bitten by the programming bug in a robotics course and pursued his interest throughout high school as an active member of the robotics team.

Kushal Mujral

He also created a series of online coding tutorials that have helped thousands of people, hopes to join a design team at Waterloo and, in addition to becoming an entrepreneur, wants to launch an organization to advocate for cheaper home Internet prices.

“Having a connection to the Internet should be considered a basic human right, and we shouldn’t be forced to pay the exorbitant prices that we do,” Mujral wrote.

Shanaya Barretto, of Mississauga, traces her interest in engineering back to an early project programming a robot to follow lines and transport objects. Overwhelmed at first, she persevered, finished it and realized she had never enjoyed a project more.

Shanaya Barretto

Active in high school with student politics, the robotics team and the school newspaper, in addition to numerous other extracurriculars, she looks forward to joining a student design as she set her sights on a career in robotics, possibly in the aerospace industry designing planetary rovers.

“The design teams here are incredibly sophisticated, and I am eager to learn from other team members and eventually make my own contributions to projects,” Barretto wrote.

Aung Khant Min, of North York, is most proud of the leadership he showed in his last year of high school to transition several STEM-related clubs and a non-profit organization he headed to virtual operations in response to the pandemic.

Aung Khant Min

Attracted to Waterloo by its co-op program and entrepreneurial culture, he has long been interested in computers and is driven by a belief that the age of computing and information is just beginning.

“I’m fascinated by the fact that an ingenious configuration of metals and minerals reliably runs the complex information systems that our modern world is based on,” Min wrote.

Dina Orucevic, of Kitchener, counts cooking, piano and reading novels among her favourite activities outside of her studies and interests in a wide range of STEM subjects.

Dina Orucevic

She also participated in basketball, curling and running in high school, in addition to organizing and competing in hackathons and STEM competitions. She won awards for a web-based application for drivers to reduce their CO2 emissions while searching for parking.

“I would like to gain broad experience through co-op terms in a variety of engineering and team environments to help crystallize my goals,” Orucevic wrote. “I also hope to make meaningful, lifelong friendships with other students who share the same goals and values.”

Go to Meet the 2021 Schulich Leaders for a story on all 10 scholarship winners at the University of Waterloo.

Main photo by Jeswin Thomas from Pexels