Receiving a scholarship as prestigious — and lucrative — as Georgia State’s Presidential Scholarship can’t help but feel like a stroke of good fortune. Nishant Sinha understands that even more deeply than most.
“I got a call from the dean of the Honors College himself, and he told me that I was accepted,” Sinha says. “I was so happy. My parents were happy for me, too — my dad called all his co-workers. I was jumping for joy when I heard the news. I couldn’t contain myself, I was laughing so hard.”
Now a full-fledged Presidential Scholar and Honors College student majoring in computer science, Sinha is making the most of this fortunate turn of events.
From the Virtual to the Concrete
A son of Indian immigrants who grew up in Minnesota, Sinha says he’s had a passion for computers ever since he was a kid. “The first computer I had was a Dell desktop, with one of those boxy white monitors,” he recalls. “I remember playing Flash games on it back in the day, and I wanted to write my own Flash game — I was really interested in that. Exploring that really led me into programming, and that’s why I went into computer science.”
Though Sinha is a self-described gamer who enjoys competitive first-person shooters, his interest in computers isn’t all fun and games. In high school he did a directed study on virtual/augmented reality and artificial intelligence — and it paid off in some tangible ways.
“My project was taking Google Cardboard and using it to implement smart features,” he says. “I designed and 3D-printed my own Google Cardboard form, and the second half of my project was using barcodes that you could create yourself — based on those, you could get specific information about various items.”
Sinha focused on pipelines as a practical use for his project. By putting different QR codes on various pipelines, and then viewing them through virtual-reality goggles, a user could get instant information on the pipe’s pressure, temperature, and a host of their variables.
Sinha says the project challenged him both as a programmer and as an inventor. “There are still a lot of limitations to VR, and one big one is that it’s so bound to big, clunky goggles. So a lot of what I’m interested in is actually the hardware, designing my own pair of goggles. One of the biggest challenges I ran into was the weight. You need to make them strong enough so that they don’t collapse onto themselves, which actually happened to me a couple times. But it can’t be too heavy, because it’s not practical at that point. It’s really an interesting engineering challenge to bring them into everyday use.”
Many Interests, and a Place to Explore them All
Sinha says he first became interested in Georgia State thanks to his older sister, who spent her freshman year of college there. “She said she absolutely loved Atlanta,” he says. “She told me about how awesome the teachers were, how the class sizes were great, how she loved everybody there.
“So I applied to Georgia State, and I was really happy to get accepted into the Honors College. I still had other choices, but then I saw the Presidential Scholarship, and that’s what really drew me in.”
Sinha says he’s looking forward to the specialized classes of the Honors College and the innovative multimedia opportunities that will soon be available through the Creative Media Industries Institute. But after spending the first 13 years of his life in the middle of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and the next five in the Atlanta suburbs, Sinha says the prospect of returning to “city life” is a big draw, too.
In downtown Atlanta, “there’s always something to do,” he says. “You can go shopping, the restaurant options are pretty much limited, and just walking down the street you feel like something’s always happening — live music, festivals, whatever. And I’m glad that they’re opening up green spaces in downtown Atlanta for people to just sit down and hang out. I want to go and explore those places, too.”
Sinha’s interests are hardly limited to the virtual world. He’s an avid Ultimate Frisbee player, and now that he’ll be living on his own, he’s trying to learn how to cook. He also recently started learning how to play the guitar.
“I’ve only been playing for about a year now, so I’m not very good,” he says, “but it’s one of those things where if you see a guitar lying around, you can always just pick it up and practice. And I enjoy being able to create music myself — it’s a different experience from just listening to it. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a totally different feeling.”