BY REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Aditya Kanakasabapathy sits in the garage of his family’s home in Niskayuna, building a remote-controlled airplane while his brother, 7-year-old Niyanth, tapes cardboard boxes together to make a boat — always trying to be more like his big brother. Their mom, Sudharsana, makes snacks.
Aditya, who just started his freshman year at Niskayuna High School, often relaxes this way: surrounded by a pile of drill bits and plastic propellers, using a special heated tool to sear pieces of foam.
“This is an RC airplane that I’m building,” he said. “I love things that fly, and I love building. Right now I’m fixing it from a crash.”
This is Aditya’s first RC airplane from scratch. He’s played with boxed ones and assembled them based on the instructions, but it’s just not much of a challenge for the teen, who loves to create. For the plane he’s building now, which is about 3 feet long and made of foam, he watched an instructional video on YouTube and went from there.
Aditya has always loved science, but he first fell in love with airplanes while waiting at JFK Airport for a flight to India, which his family visits about every other year to see relatives.
“This huge Boeing 747 was taking off,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Wait, how much does that weigh?’ ”
His dad, Siva, an electrical engineer at IBM, guessed it weighed about three tons, a figure that stunned Aditya into adopting a new hobby.
“After that I started researching how an airplane flies,” he said. “What the wing is doing, it’s actually splitting the air in half.”
Unsurprisingly, Aditya is excited about the many science and engineering classes available at the high school. He loves biology as much as engineering, although he’s not so sure about one of this year’s main projects.
“There’s going to be dissecting. Ick,” he said. “I’m a vegetarian.”
Three-dimensional drawing and electronics classes also light up his face.
“We actually have a lot of choices,” he said. So far, the only thing that’s been intimidating about high school is navigating the hallways, which are much larger and more circuitous than those at Van Antwerp Middle School.
Aditya even hopes to get into student government. He helped lead an anti-bullying initiative at his middle school as part of student council, and can’t wait to be old enough to run for class office in the high school, where freshmen aren’t eligible.
For an involved student like Aditya, it’s tough to reconcile with the fact that in other parts of the world, some kids don’t have the same opportunities for education — or any opportunities at all, in some cases. That’s why Aditya became involved with the All India Movement for Seva, a community development program in India that provides boarding schools and scholarships for rural and tribal children who might otherwise face impossible roadblocks to education.
Always ready to spring to action for a good cause, Aditya started a bottle drive for the program several years ago. He was inspired to collect bottles after his mom told him about a TV show she had seen where a young girl raised money the same way for a charity she loved.
Aditya started raising funds for AIM for Seva by gathering the cans and bottles his own family used, but he’s since expanded his project.
“Right now every Sunday I go around to the neighbors and knock on their doors,” he said. If they’ve used any bottles or cans during the week, they gladly hand them over.
Last year, in eighth grade, he started a contest at his school between each grade level. The grade that brought in the most cans and bottles won — his class took the prize. But the real winner was AIM for Seva, because the haul brought in $50 in bottle and can deposits, the equivalent of 1,000 items collected.
Not counting the ones still piled in the family’s garage, Aditya has raised about $111 with bottles so far. He also secured a matching donation from a family friend.
Aditya’s bottle collection has gone from a one-kid effort to a family project, and then turned into a community initiative. Of course, Niyanth pitches in extra, too, because his big brother is his role model.
“He helps a lot,” Aditya said, smiling.
If you’d also like to help, Aditya can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: this version has been updated to correct an error. Aditya Kanakasabapathy’s name was misstated in the original version.