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Fort McMurray student awarded multiple prestigious scholarships

Click to play video: 'Fort McMurray student awarded multiple prestigious scholarships to 4 Canadian universities' Fort McMurray student awarded multiple prestigious scholarships to 4 Canadian universities
Getting a scholarship is always an achievement, but a Fort McMurray teenager has multiple to choose from — some six figures. Saptarshi Bhattacherya was offered four scholarships to universities across the country for his achievements in computer science. Nicole Stillger has more on the teen's achievements. – Jun 5, 2021

Fort McMurray’s Saptarshi Bhattacherya was first introduced to computer science in elementary school.

“That was when I found out I really liked making things using computers and making things that interact with people,” Bhattacherya explained.

His passion for the subject only grew from there.

“I’ve seen computer science has a very high capability of uniting different people to solve the problems they see in society today,” he said.

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The 17-year-old joined Westwood Community High School in Grade 10. It has an elite computer science program and a teacher who is just as passionate.

“[Bhattacherya] would be in the top one per cent in my whole career,” computer science teacher Said El Mejdani said.
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“Believe me, the program we have here for computer science is very high level.”

Mejdani said the program is more challenging than any other in the country for high school students and that’s why they love it.

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“It’s attracting all the bright minds in town,” Mejdani said.

Bhattacherya received four scholarship offers from universities across Canada:

  • President’s Entrance Citation – University of Alberta ($30,000)
  • Presidential Scholar’s Award – University of British Columbia ($40,000)
  • Schulich Leader Scholarship – University of Toronto ($100,000)
  • Schulich Leader Scholarship – University of Waterloo ($100,000)

“I’m still processing the magnitude of all of this and definitely grateful to have received all of these opportunities,” Bhattacherya said.

The Schulich Leaders Award is the largest science, technology engineering and math (STEM) scholarship in Canada.

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Read more: Edmonton high school student wins prestigious $80K Schulich scholarship

Bhattacherya’s applications were not only based on his academic achievements but projects too.

Among those is his Visual Aid for the Deaf using Audio Recognition (VADAR) device, which allows text to appear on the lens of the wearer and be transcribed in real-time.

He presented it at Inventures 2019, an international, university-level pitch competition.

Out of roughly 3,500 students around the world, he placed third.

“This idea of using AI to democratize things like being able to have a vocal conversation. I think that’s one of the most important applications of the technology,” Bhattacherya said.

“I’d definitely be very interested in pursuing it in the future.”

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His teacher said he “could not be prouder.”

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“Kids like Saptarshi come with no background in computer science, and at age 15, they are competing with top engineers and university people and winning the competitions,” Mejdani said.

Bhattacherya chose the University of Waterloo and is enrolled in the software engineering program come September.

While he’s there, he wants to host workshops and events that are open to the community to teach the more theoretical aspects of machine learning.

“I think everyone has the capability to learn it if taught the right way,” Bhattacherya said.

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