IDENTICAL TWIN SISTERS SHINE IN ENGINEERING, ENTREPRENEURSHIP
When Collierville sisters Aanchal and Pallavi Singhal showed enthusiasm for engineering as young girls, their parents encouraged them to go for it.
“I said why not?” their mother Shelli said this week. “Not for a moment did my husband or I think they would not be able to. We said, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ They had a plan.”
Now 15 years old, the identical twins are approaching the start of their sophomore year at the new Collierville High School already having achieved state, national and international awards in technology. They also launched their own business and are mentoring other kids on how to do it.
Drawing inspiration from women in science, technology, math and engineering who have been their mentors, Aanchal and Pallavi compete in contests made up of mostly male competitors.
In the last year, they won first place in video game design in Chattanooga at the state level, earned a spot in the top 12 at the Technology Student Association nationals and were honoured with two awards at the 2018 VEX Robotics World Championship held in Louisville, Kentucky, among other awards.
“Do not be afraid,” Aanchal said.
“We want (girls) to be empowered,” Pallavi said. “We want them to know that they can do it.”
STEM teacher Tamela Underwood taught Aanchal and Pallavi this year at Collierville High School where they explored learning about catapults, electricity, magnetism and coding.
“They are incredible girls,” Underwood said. “I’ve never known two girls who work so hard but they enjoy everything they’re doing. They love to be a part of everything and they love to learn new things. They don’t want to be held back. I’ve seen them challenge each other. They always want to try something new.”
When competitors were needed for a team event, Underwood said Aanchal and Pallavi were first to volunteer. And when the staff was moving out of Collierville High School to its new building at the end of the school year, they offered their time to help out.
“They are tireless,” Underwood said. “They’re helpful, they’re energetic, they’re fun to be around. I just can’t say enough. They’re just wonderful little girls. I am so excited to see what they accomplish in this world.”
With women still underrepresented in STEM careers, Underwood encourages girls to get into the field.
“Try new things,” she said. “You’ll be amazed at what you like to do. There are things you never thought you could do. It is amazing the doors it will open if you’re part of the STEM world.”
Aanchal and Pallavi designed a video game that draws attention to animal cruelty by having the players help a dog escape from a puppy mill. Another game they designed aims to bring awareness to global warming, in particular in Alaska.
Beginning in entrepreneurship, Aanchal and Pallavi also knew they loved crafts, so their mother suggested pom poms for their first business. They started creating pompom balls but said they were not very good at first — too rough and not circular. The girls began brainstorming ideas, collected feedback and learned not to get too attached to their prototype.
They improvised, added embellishments and soon had the makings of their business, Pompom Depot. Their products include key chains, pencil toppers and earrings all bearing the girls’ signature handmade yarn pom poms. They launched a website and Instagram page and set up a booth at Collierville’s town square fair. They donated the first ten percent of their earnings to the Collierville Animal Shelter.
Their business got even more exposure through a children’s business fair for the greater Memphis area and by having a stall at the Memphis flea market.
Dr Stephanie Ivey, a professor with the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Memphis, has known Aanchal and Pallavi since they were in middle school attending the university’s Girls Experiencing Engineering Program, which Ivey co-directs.
Through the program, girls are taught that engineering offers creative and practical careers that are “absolutely a fantastic fit for women,” Ivey said.
“(Engineering) is exciting, it’s challenging and it makes a positive impact,” Ivey said.
During the program, she said Aanchal and Pallavi stood out for their excitement and enthusiasm.
“They came back every single summer,” Ivey said.
Aanchal plans to become a biomedical engineer and make prosthetics for animals. Pallavi plans to become a mechanical engineer for NASA or Boeing, either working on planes or space rovers.
Sitting near her daughters at the Collierville United Methodist Church this week after they spoke to kids about starting up a business, their mom said she has no doubt Aanchal and Pallavi are going to be agents for positive change.
“They’ll make their own place in this world,” she said. “And they’ll make this world a better place to live in.”