Vision-Aid's Amazing Python Team is ready for 2021
Vision-Aid's Python Program, one of its flagship technology training program for the visually impaired, is 100% volunteer driven. For the past four years, Vision-Aid has been teaching Python programming to the visually impaired, all over India.
Vision-Aid is getting ready to launch its new 2021 program, which includes programming classes for adults, advanced project-based mentoring for more advanced programming students, and a special program in collaboration with Indic-AI, a Delhi based NGO which partners with Vision-Aid to mentor young blind programmers.
Vision-Aid’s flagship program in the area of advanced technical training for the visually impaired attracts many interested learners each year. Learners are paired with mentors in an intense and engaging learning experience to master the basics of programming. Course materials for the course are based on the renowned “Programming for Everybody” course designed by the legendary Dr. Charles Severance (Dr. Chuck) of the University of Michigan, who has over 2 million students globally via MOOCs like Coursera and edX. Dr. Chuck is an ardent supporter and advocate of the work Vision-Aid is doing to educate the visually impaired with technical skills.
Vision-Aid also partners with other leading organizations including I-Stem, IIIT-B, XRCVC and Vision Empower to host nationally popular events in India called the “Inclusive STEM Confluence”. This annual event includes a hackathon, job fair with top IT companies attending, and mentoring opportunities. In "Inclusive STEM Confluence" visually impaired programmers can meet with programmers from the Industry and create an inclusive learning and employment environment for the visually impaired and for IT companies looking to hire a diverse workforce.
Some Vision-Aid students have gone on to get jobs in the tech industry as data analysts and programmers. Others have gone on to pursue higher studies in the field computer technology. You can read more about the journeys of these students here. Other training programs offered by Vision-Aid include its training program in web accessibility testing (see https://webaccessibility.visionaid.org/) and many others – a full list can be found at the Vision-Aid online academy (https://training.visionaid.org/)
The dedicated volunteers, take time from their busy schedules over 6 months every year, to work for several hours every week, teaching coding skills to the visually impaired. They are among the hidden gems in the community, offering service to others selflessly without expecting anything in return, the unsung heroes who help to keep the program going and growing despite the enormous challenges faced in teaching a complex subject like computer programming to blind and low vision students. Most of them having absolutely no prior exposure to the subject. The volunteer team spans multiple countries with most of the volunteers living in the United Sates and India.
Bhaskar earned his Bachelors of Technology in Mechanical Engineering from REC Calicut and Masters in Finance from Boston College. He started his career as a software engineer and currently works as an investment analyst with Acadian Asset Management in the Greater Boston area.
Bhargav Vaghasiya is the first visually impaired Computer science (Bachelor of computer application) graduate from Gujarat. He is currently working as software engineer at Bengaluru. Bhargav was one of the first students of Vision-Aid, who then went on to become a volunteer mentor to teach the python class.
Giri Lingamarla has over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology industry. He is currently working for Capgemini, a major IT services company. He has an MBA from Wayne State University and a master’s degree from IIT Madras. He has been a volunteer with the Vision-Aid Python programming class since 2015.
Nisha has 4 years of IT Experience working as a Customer Engineer at Microsoft. Working with Infrastructure technologies, PowerShell scripting, and an advocate for Microsoft Azure. Nisha is passionate about Machine learning and data visualization.
Palani is a skilled software architect in the space of data management, visualization and advanced analytics. He has 19+ years of progressive career spanning across Technology Consulting, Solution Architecture, Data Integration, Data Lake Design, Analytics & Visualization.
Ravi Rastogi is a board member of Vision-Aid since 2016. He is involved in coordinating “teaching online programming course” for vision impaired students. Currently, Ravi is a Technical Staff at MIT-Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington, MA. Prior to joining MIT-Lincoln Lab, he worked at Intel Corp. Ravi also served as the President of IITAGNE, Director of IAGB, Board Member of AVS-New England, and Core Team Member of 2016 PAN-IIT Conference.
Saheel graduated with a BTech and MS degrees in Computer Science degrees from IIT Madras and UC Davis, California, respectively. Currently Saheel is working at Microsoft from their Hyderabad campus. Apart from programming, Saheel enjoys listening to music, reading fiction, and going on drives with friends.
Santosh Vattam is a software engineer working in the industry for over 8 years. He has an MS degree from University of Pennsylvania and currently works at Google. He has been part of the Vision-Aid family for over 3 years now. He was a Python course mentor for the last 3 years and now he is also a mentor for the Python project track.
Shobha Sudhir has been teaching and mentoring visually impaired and at-risk individuals for many years. She is passionate about various causes and is involved with many different non-profits serving a variety of different levels. Shobha has diverse experience. She has an M.S in computer science and an MBA. She has more than two decades of experience working as a scientist and an engineer in various industries.
Dr. Sonal Patel
Sonal is a life long learner on MOOCs. She believes that education which is available for everyone truly empowers. According to Sonal when one is committed to learn, they can become a ‘better version’ of themself by taking control of their own learning. At Vision-Aid, Sonal has mentored about a dozen students over four years, all of whom have introduced her to the beautiful world of Visually challenged and have been one Sonal’s core team of young mentors. She believes these students are her true teachers in life. At Vision-Aid, Sonal has shared and spread ‘love of learning’ on MOOCs among all those she has mentored. She wants to spread ‘growth mindset’, that motivates Learning without Limits to everyone and everywhere, including among those who are visually challenged. She has recently started a silent movement —#empoweringthroughEducationforAll. She hopes to get the momentum to this movement through the new batch of Vision-Aid students in 2021.
Sudhir Varma has been a volunteer director with Vision-Aid since 2006. In addition to being the treasurer, he teaches and mentors visually impaired students. He has a Master’s degree in Computer Science and has over 30 years of experience in the technology sector. He started as a scientist in Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO) before he started working for leading software companies. He is very passionate about helping others in whatever way he can and volunteers for various causes.
Sulochana Devadas has a BE in Computer Science from BIT Mesra and a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Northeastern University. After working as a software engineer for many years, she is now devoting herself to her passion of teaching. She has taught many students through the Vision Aid Python program and has also created custom materials for teaching Python to beginner and young visually impaired learners.
Dr. Swaroop Vattam
Dr. Swaroop Vattam is a scientist at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. His primary research interests are in the areas of machine learning, graph theory, and algorithms. He obtained his PhD from Georgia Institute of Technology in computer science in 2011 and is an active contributor to the AI research community. He has served on program committees for several AI conferences, including the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Conference, International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), and Advances in Cognitive Systems (ACS) annual meetings. He is the recipient of several honors, including the National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Publication Award (2014); National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Grant (2013); Best Paper award at the 8th Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Creativity and Cognition (2011); and a recipient of Outstanding Dissertation (2012), and Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant (2011) awards from the College of Computing at Georgia Tech.
Ujwala Phene is a volunteer Director of Vision-Aid. Ujwala works as a Director Product Management at a leading Financial firm. She holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Mumbai University. Ujwala has been a volunteer at Vision-Aid since its inception. She also volunteers at Neighbors Who Care, a Waltham based non-profit that helps elderly people. Ujwala enjoys Yoga and taking long walks in her free time.
Upamanyu (Teaching Assistant)
Upamanyu is a senior at Westford Academy in Massachusetts. In school, he is a high honor roll student who loves science and math classes. He is also an avid rower and serves as the captain of Westford Academy varsity crew team. Outside of school, he has done research on bias propagation in machine learning and defending fake news detectors from adversarial attacks. He is a huge sports fan and enjoys fantasy football and cooking in his spare time.