NCHS senior wins national STEM award for service work with global impact


A high school student from Normal Community High School has achieved national recognition for his work to improve life at home in McLean County and globally in India.

Dhruv Rebba recently received the 2022 4-H Youth in Action Award for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) from the National 4-H Council. Rebba has created several projects that advance technological learning opportunities for children and quality of life opportunities for citizens in crisis. This includes the founding of the nonprofit Universal Help, which digitized and provided textbooks, internet access and technology to schools in rural India.

Rebba visited his father’s hometown in rural India in eighth grade, and he immediately noticed a difference in the standard of living and educational opportunities for the children there compared to those in the Bloomington area. Normal.

“The things we take for granted every day are a luxury there. I noticed this, and I was really into sustainability and the environment. So, over the next year, I got the idea to start a non-profit organization. In 2018, I decided to launch Universal Help, ”said Rebba.

Universal Help is focused on improving the quality of life of people around the world in innovative ways. Rebba said Universal Help is doing this through many different local and international projects, such as digitizing schools and distributing textbooks to schools in rural India, running a COVID-19 isolation center to fight against the Delta variant in India, and through local projects such as recycling and composting in McLean County.

Rebba said Universal Help also provided natural disaster relief from Cyclone Yaas in May. During the Yaas floods, Universal Help supported the West Bengal Radio Club by donating amateur radio equipment.

In addition, Universal Help distributed groceries and food to more than 250 families in rural villages in India during the first and second waves of COVID-19.

Rebba said one of University Help’s goals is to digitize parts of rural India, in part through the application of online course materials and school supplies to several schools. Specifically, Rebba said the online donation of materials to a girl’s high school in the remote village of NP Kunta, Andhra Pradesh, India, has helped empower women.

Universal Help has reached over 10,000 people through its projects.

Closer to home

Rebba also set up a robotics club at Grove Elementary School to increase STEM-based learning opportunities for young children.

For Rebba, getting involved in robotics from an early age was the driving force that connected him to STEM.

“The reason I wanted to start a robotics club was to pass on knowledge and make robotics education more accessible. Often times this can get expensive. By creating a 4-H club in local elementary schools, it makes learning robotics more accessible to students, ”he said.

Rebba said seeing an idea on an iPad or paper on how to design a robot and turn it into an actual finished product is something he enjoys not only experimenting with himself, but alongside students as well. eager to learn.

“I realized how important this had been to me, and decided that it was important to give back and make sure that other students in the community and the world had opportunities similar to those I ‘ve, because I know how much impact this has had for me, ”Rebba mentioned.

In addition to the Grove Elementary School Robotics Club, Rebba’s Universal Help program is also having a strong local impact by partnering with the University of Illinois 4-H in Space program, which made the learning space more accessible to nearly 5,000 young people in its first year, with approximately 3,000 young people from urban and underserved communities.

Rebba said Universal Help is also implementing recycling projects in public parks and working with the Ecology Action Center to create more composting opportunities in the Bloomington-Normal area.

After graduation, Rebba plans to attend a four-year college and study a STEM-related major. Based on the success of Universal Help, Rebba hopes to eventually create opportunities for solar advancement for people in India through a solar project.


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