Saturday, March 2

Spirit of Hong Kong Awards: teenage prodigy dabbles in robotics, teaches technology and fights for a sustainable future

Amaanat Rekhi’s path to becoming an innovator started when she saw a robot called Geminoid F singing at a Hong Kong shopping centre as a child, igniting a passion that led to her interviewing technology leaders and deciding to embark on her own journey.

The 16-year-old is now setting her sights on developing a solar-powered robot that can collect waste from public areas, such as beaches.

She has taken also on an internship with Hanson Robotics, a technology company internationally renowned for developing humanlike robots.

Iain Williamson, head of film, media and digital literacy coordinator for South Island School, said that he had taught many outstanding students, but described Rekhi as unique in her desire to emulate the institution’s motto of “making a difference”.

“I do not think that I have ever overseen a student with such drive and work ethic before,” Williamson wrote in his letter nominating Rekhi for the Spirit of Hong Kong Awards 2023, under the category of Spirit of Youth.

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The student has gone on to become a finalist in the annual event co-organised by the South China Morning Post and property developer Sino Group that honours the achievements of remarkable individuals whose endeavours might otherwise go unnoticed.

Rekhi moved from India to Hong Kong with her family at four years old and has become a model student who acts as a school ambassador for sustainability and an advocate for using new technologies.

The teenager has also spent the past two years working on several projects, such as a student-led activity that explained the importance of software using artificial intelligence (AI) in the run-up to ChatGPT’s public release.

The activity became so popular that 15 fellow pupils asked to join her in teaching the subject to others, prompting Rekhi to offer similar projects at NGOs and primary and secondary schools.

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She established Youth4Youth a student-led non-profit organisation that seeks to empower and inspire future generations to pursue an education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“I’m really delighted that we have expanded this initiative to other countries as well. We now have branches in Hong Kong, Korea and India,” she said.

“Overall, we have taught more than 250 children through more than 120 STEM sessions over a span of more than 180 hours. It’s incredible to witness the international growth of this initiative.”

The 16-year-old also founded The Gen Z Nexus, a student-led consultancy that helps businesses, social enterprises and charities effectively market themselves to the younger generation.

The organisation offers focus groups, innovation workshops, beta testing and product feedback that help brands reach young people, driving business growth and boosting sales.

The teenage innovator stands alongside her mother, Kinshuk Rekhi. Photo: Kong Yat-pang

On top of all that, she worked with the MakerBay Foundation to launch Morph. The project aims to transform plastic waste in Tsuen Wan into usable products.

The prodigy is looking at potential applications of AI and robotics across various industries, two areas which she believes offer valuable and versatile tools.

“Some time into the future, I definitely want to start up my own venture and transform innovative concepts into reality. Through these projects, I have realised the value of giving back to the community and I am determined to continue making a difference,” she said.

“I have formed teams with my schoolmates and participated in pitching competitions, which has fuelled my passion for entrepreneurship.”

Asked what tips she had for youngsters interested in exploring technology, she said: “We have to just move with a telescope in one hand and a microscope in the other, so we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture or skip the details.”

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The teenager’s mother, Kinshuk Rekhi, said she believed it was important to allow her daughter’s ideas to take the lead, but still offered her gentle guidance.

Looking back at her daughter’s achievements, the mother cited the teenager’s determination to make Morph work, even after it proved difficult to implement at her school.

“Instead, she has reached out to a recycling centre in Sai Wan Ho to request them to support her project,” Kinshuk Rekhi said.

“She believes that witnessing the process of plastic recycling first-hand is a powerful motivator for her daughter. This experience fuelled her passion and drove her to make a positive impact on the environment.”

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