Kunal Mohindra, 16, of Yorktown Heights, New York, a junior at Yorktown High School, has drawn from his own experience with autism to become an accomplished teacher and mentor who helps children with autism and other young people acquire computer coding and robotics skills. As a child, Kunal’s autism made it very difficult for him to communicate with his family. But one day his older sisters taught him how to use computer programming to create games, and his whole world changed. “I found this new mode of communication to be very liberating and empowering,” he said. Having an outlet for self-expression and creativity eventually enabled him to overcome many of his challenges, and instilled a desire “to share my love of coding with other students with disabilities who may be facing similar struggles,” he said.
Two years ago, Kunal founded a nonprofit called “CodeConnect4All” to teach coding and robotics to kids with autism and other disabilities, and connect them to their neurotypical peers. Through his organization, Kunal teaches classes in robotics and video game design at local libraries, and conducts interactive workshops at after-school enrichment programs. He also teaches kids with autism and students from underserved communities at week-long summer camps, giving them hands-on experience in building their own robots and writing code for their own video games. As an Eagle Scout, Kunal helps fellow scouts earn badges in robotics, programming and engineering. He also works with Girl Scouts in hopes of kindling their interest in computer science. In addition, Kunal mentors middle level students as they prepare for science fairs, and even sponsored an award at the Dutchess County Science Fair.