Tanish '23 and Riya Tyagi '24

Year of Graduation: 
2023 and 2024
Tanish and Riya Tyagi

"We really want every child to have exposure to STEM fields, irrespective of their background or socioeconomic status."

Like so many younger siblings, Riya Tyagi ’24 grew up idolizing her older brother Tanish Tyagi ’23. As grade-schoolers in the suburbs of New York City, the pair shared books, enjoyed trips into Manhattan and attended summer camps together, with Riya considering Tanish her “role model.” But when the two began to consider leaving home to attend boarding school, it was the younger Tyagi who led the way.

In middle school, Riya received the Caroline D. Bradley scholarship, allowing her to pursue a tuition-free education at a private high school of her choosing. She says what drew her to Exeter was the opportunity and freedom to shape her future among other likeminded students.

“Compared to a lot of other boarding schools, there was so much independence that I observed in terms of course curriculum, clubs and dorm life, but at the same time, everyone appeared so close.”

As for Tanish, “I just kind of tagged along,” he says jokingly. Already a ninth-grader, Tanish decided a change of scenery, and learning style, might help him expand his horizons. “While we were applying, I saw these videos online about the Harkness classes and that really helped me fall in love with the idea of Harkness as a whole.” A STEM kid at heart, Tanish says his time around the table has helped him appreciate other subjects. “Before coming to Exeter, I really wasn't that much of a fan of any liberal arts, but participating in the Harkness English classes, history classes and Spanish classes really helped me develop a love for all the subjects,” he says.

Full support

Now in their second year at Exeter, the siblings continue to share pursuits, including a passion for robotics. With the encouragement of Chair of the Science Department Albert Léger, Riya, Tanish and the rest of the robotics club gather regularly to hone their skills before competitions. “Last year, because we didn’t have our own space, we had to take down and set up the field every time we wanted to practice and that would take like an hour,” says Riya. “Dr. Léger gave us a room this year, which is amazing because we've become much more efficient. I don't think we would've had so much success driving and testing robotics if not for him.”

Tanish talks about finding that same level of support among his dorm faculty in Wentworth Hall, especially from dorm head and Instructor in Science Sean Campbell.  “We have a bunch of retro board games in Wentworth, so I've spent few nights playing board games with Mr. Campbell,” he says. “Some of the nights we’ll discuss computer science topics instead and that's been really great overall.”

Tanish and Riya Tyagi

The students become the teachers

Tanish’s passion for board games started well before the common-room contests in Wentworth Hall. With Riya, the pair created and produced their own board game, “Who Wants to Be a Billionaire.” The game challenges players to navigate the world of tech startups in route to ultimate prize of “unicorn status.” “To start, you go around the board and hire people, then you acquire technologies, basically building teams,” explains Riya. “After that, you're able to launch products and features upon which you can get users, so basically how technology companies work.” The two started an online campaign to generate funds and have been doing focus testing with the hopes of bringing the product to market. “Last summer while we were finishing up the final prototypes, we had around 30 or 40 kids come to our house to test the game and do some trial runs,” says Tanish. “Our main overarching goal is to make technology accessible to every person on the planet, and we really want every child to have exposure to STEM fields, irrespective of their background or socioeconomic status. In the future, we envision our board game being accessible in schools, public libraries and after-school programs so students can explore the world of tech on their tabletop and get inspired.”

The board game isn’t the teens’ only joint venture designed to make STEM learning more accessible. As part of an Eagle Scout project, Tanish created an organization called Her Computing. Initially designed to introduce young girls to STEM and computer science, the outfit grew to include underprivileged youngsters of all genders. Riya quickly joined her brother and before long they had taught hundreds of children in East Orange, New Jersey, the basics of computer programming.

“We love spreading our knowledge to other people and just to welcome them in general,” says Tanish. “We said, ‘Let's just keep going and see how many events we can do.’ We've been working collaboratively ever since and have around 10 events with over 500 students. It's been just an amazing journey.”

Adam Loyd