We were excited to catch up with Stratford San Jose Middle School alumnus, Rushil Kapadia. After graduating from Stratford, Rushil went on to Archbishop Mitty High School and is now immersed in his studies at University of California at Berkeley (aka Cal) where he is studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science with a minor in Logic. We spoke with Rushil about his current studies, his passion for computer science and machine learning, and queried how his time at Stratford School helped prepare him for life in college.

How did Stratford prepare you for your studies at Cal?

Stratford helped me build a strong foundation in all of my core classes (math, science, history, english). I remember when I started high school, I felt that school had gotten easier. The strong foundations and analytical thinking skills that I developed in middle school helped me excel in all of my high school classes, and that continues even now in my college classes. For example, the labs we did in physics (Rube Goldberg) with Ms. Chung really prepared me for the labs I would do from then on. The learning and note-taking style (Thanks, Mr. G.,for the Cornell Notes System!), and essay writing/grammar lessons have carried me through all of my years in middle and high school.

Who is your favorite Stratford teacher?

One of my favorite teachers in middle school was Mr. Guansing. I still remember Mr. Guansing encouraging me to improve my handwriting and organization, advising me that future teachers would have a hard time reading my work. I really took that to heart as I made sure to be organized and neat in all of my future math classes. The way he broke down concepts in class made them so much easier to understand and really helped me to learn geometry and algebra thoroughly. I really think his classes pushed me toward enjoying math as a subject

What sparked your interest in “machine learning” and please tell us a little about what that entails?

Taking computer science throughout elementary and middle school at Stratford really kick-started my interest in computer science, and from there, I was introduced to machine learning in high school and college. Machine learning is the process by which machines mimic human behavior and learning patterns to emulate humans performing such tasks as identifying objects in an image or even tasks like winning at board and video games. One of the main ways that technology will change in the future will be related to new advances in machine learning and robots’ abilities to perform tasks by learning in a way that is similar to how humans do. Some examples are self-driving cars, applications that can write entire blogs based on a subject, and machines that can learn how to walk and run! I really am excited by the prospects of machine learning, and I wanted to provide an opportunity to get middle and high school students interested in the space, so I decided to start teaching summer classes about machine learning!

What are some of the lessons that you have learned since leaving Stratford that you would like to share with our current Stratford students?

One key aspect that I learned throughout school is to push your boundaries. Over time, I learned that I was more satisfied when I just took a leap of faith and did something that pushed my bounds rather than avoiding it because it was something I hadn’t done before. This went from everything from pushing myself to make more introductions at events, to reaching out to new people, and even signing up for computer science competitions that I did not think I could do well in. I found that these competitions ended up being where I would create some of my most interesting projects. I also joined more clubs such as Blockchain at Berkeley, this is another growing space in tech that I have really come to enjoy. Additionally, I committed myself to learning new subjects. I am now minoring in Logic, which is something completely new that I really enjoy.

What are your future goals after graduation? What would you like to focus on?

I hope to go into the computer science space and make an impact — both through working in innovative spaces that improve the quality of life and building on my long term goal to make computer science education more available and affordable. My goal is to use my skills in computer science to make a positive difference. That is something I will strive to achieve.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Lack of access to quality education. One of the core issues in our world is the lack of information or knowledge. From global education about eliminating carbon emissions in order to reduce climate change or education about injustice, I believe that long term solutions to major issues can be found in education. Furthermore, education can provide a pathway to prosperity that may have not been possible otherwise, especially for those who are underprivileged. This is something I learned more about through teaching Scratch (drag and drop programming language) lessons after school for underprivileged students while I was attending high school. 

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Rushil. We know your dedication to computer science, education, and helping others will continue to fuel your success. We cannot wait to see what comes next for you.