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Grace Hu in Capetown

Grace Hu, '21

Sparking curiosity through public service and innovation

Grace Hu in Capetown

Last spring, I spent three months abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, interning at CodeSpace, a social enterprise that provides computational programming education for students. Within CodeSpace, Code for Cape Town is a nonprofit community that empowers young women to leverage technology for social innovation, bringing greater diversity to the tech industry. In addition to developing course curriculum, I loved visiting high schools to speak about the advantages of a strong computer science foundation for young South African women aspiring to be tech leaders. From watching these women work tirelessly, I knew that they were limited only by stereotypes and lack of resources. They were bright and curious, and inspired me to keep advocating for women and people of color to become pioneers in all aspects of society.

Over the weekends, I was also excited to hold a series of volunteer STEM outreach sessions with local township schools and NGOs like IkamvaYouth. I loved introducing students to the wonders of Foldscope, the $1.75 ultra-affordable origami microscopes that students could assemble to explore the microcosmos. Two workshops were held in collaboration with the Water Institute at Stellenbosch University, where we hosted learners from Makupula and Kayamandi High Schools who were doing a capstone project investigating the polluted waters of their local Krom River. In just a drop of water, the students were in awe of an unsuspecting cricket, emerald-colored chloroplasts, and the vivid anatomy of flower petals.

But my work doesn’t stop there. Witnessing how accessible science can inspire curiosity, I am motivated to help invent a low-cost scanning electron microscope (SEM) that can change how we investigate diseases. I am working to develop a 40,000V printable battery to power a portable $150 SEM, which I hope one day will be accessible to any research group, hospital, or school worldwide.

I believe that with equal access to technology, young people will be an unstoppable force for good. I will forever cherish my memories and close friends made in Cape Town during this unforgettable experience as we all move forward to create a brighter future.

Originally from Jericho, NY, Grace is a coterminal student majoring in Materials Science and Engineering (BS) and Computer Science (MS). She is co-president of the Stanford Undergraduate Materials Society (SUMS), senior project advisor and former balloons team lead of the Stanford Student Space Initiative (SSI), and active in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
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