Hey guys!

My last  blog was before spring break; I was super hyped about heading to DC for the NAE Grand Challenges competition and presenting the business plan my team and I created. Now that break and the competition are both over, I wanted to update you guys as to how it went! Here’s how the three days I spent in DC went down:

Wednesday: SJC –> DCA 

  • 4:15 am: my alarm went off. I hit snooze.
  • 4:20 am: my actual alarm went off, and my parents tell me to “get out of bed or [I’ll] miss my flight.” thanks parents.

    flying over snowy Chicago

  • 5:00 am: I head to SJC (San Jose airport!! I’m from the Bay Area) for my 6:35 am flight. One of my teammates is also from the bay, so we meet up and sit together on the 6 hour flight to DC. We had a layover in Chicago, then landed at around 6pm EST. Both of us were sleepy, cranky and hungry.
  • 6:15 pm: We met up with another one of our teammates at the airport, then headed to the hotel. DC WAS SO COLD!!! IT WAS SOMETHING LIKE 20 DEGREES OUTSIDE, WITH SNOW. Anyway, NAE put us up in a sweeet hotel right in downtown DC, super close to all the cool sites. We went down the street to grab dinner, then settled into our room for last minute work on our business plan.
  • 10 pm: We ended up meeting for almost four hours, finishing up our slides, going through the presentation and finalizing all our details. Our west coast jetlag didn’t help too much either :—)
  • 2am: We finally sleep! The competition wasn’t scheduled to start until 11am the next day, so we set our alarms for 8am and get some rest before the big day.

Thursday: Competition + DC adventures! 

  • 10:40 am: After showering, getting ready and running through final presentations, we walk over to the National Academy of Sciences, where our competition was going to take place. It’s freezing cold and there’s snow on the ground, but we made it through the 10 minute walk and checked into the competition.
  • 11am: NAE hosted a brunch for the competitors and mentors, so we grabbed food and hung out with some of the other teams. There were 10 other universities there, which meant we got to meet people from all over the country! Everyone was super nice, outgoing and friendly, but there was definitely an aura of general nervousness around the entire room. We received the schedule of presenters, and learned that we would be going 6th, nice and in the middle. We head to the green room, and run through our presentation some more.
  • 12:45pm: With our presentation in 15 minutes, we head over to the main presentation room and loosen up. My teammate Manjima was the only one presenting, so we were focused on making sure she was relaxed and ready to go. We made small talk with some other teams, but we were very very nervous at this point.
  • 1:00 pm: WE PITCH! AND IT WENT SO WELL!! My teammate delivered the pitch perfectly, right within the time window, and we all answer the judges’ questions to a tee. The judges asked thoughtful, engaging questions; we really enjoyed our Q&A time. We headed back outside for a break, did a little celebration dance and relaxed. The award ceremony wasn’t scheduled till later, so we decided to go back and watch some of the other pitches. The other teams were stellar; we were super impressed with everyone’s projects.
  • 3:30 pm: After a short deliberation, the judges called all the teams back in, ready to announce who would be heading to the finals. The head of the program told us she’d announce the teams in alphabetical order, and we cross our fingers. After announcing NC State, Penn State, UC San Diego and University of Denver, we knew there weren’t too many other schools left (using alphabetic deduction, of course). The announcer called our names and we FREAKED OUT!!! WE MADE FINALS!!!

National Academy of Sciences

Team pic!!








We left the National Academy of Sciences in super high spirits, and were so so blessed and thankful for our opportunity to compete. We spent the rest of the day exploring DC, checking out the monuments and the local neighborhoods before it got too cold for us west coasters. We hung out by the Washington Monument and the White House, got some incredible Thai Food in Georgetown, and had dessert on M Street. Check out the pics below! After a loooong day, we settled in and went to sleep, ready for our trips home on Friday.

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Friday, Zoo + home!

My friend Jessica and I!

The next day, a friend of mine from Johns Hopkins came down to hang out with us. I hadn’t seen Jessica for almost 2.5 years, so it was amazing getting to hang out with her around DC! We ended up getting brunch and going to the Smithsonian Zoological Park, where they have very cute pandas and lots of ducks.

After the zoo, we all went to the airport and headed home, it was really an amazing (yet jam packed) three days! We were lucky enough to get another shot at the international round, so we’ll be competing again in July against teams from China, the United Kingdom, and the other US teams that advanced with us. We’re all super stoked, and can’t wait to keep working on our little project!!

That’s all I got for this update, keep an eye out for my post in July about the final round!

Peace out and fight on,


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