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AAPI Heritage Month: Contributions to Technology

May 24, 2021

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and Capitology Blog is highlighting the various contributions made by AAPI individuals in the STEM fields. In our last post, we talked about AAPI contributions to infrastructure. This post will highlight AAPI contributions to technology.

Ajay Bhatt

Stop and think how many times in day you interact with a USB port. Laptops, cell phones, tablets, cars – if you have any kind of technology around you, chances are very high it will utilize USB.

The USB was invented by Indian-American Ajay Bhatt back in the late 90s, while he was working for Intel. According to an NPR article by Josh Axelrod, the first iMAC with USB ports was released in 1998.

“Bhatt's idea for the USB was inspired by his own experience as a user dealing with tech frustrations far beyond the scope of a get-it-wrong-the-first-time cable,” writes Axelrod. “Every time he attempted to plug in a new device, he'd encounter a tumbleweed of tangled wires, each requiring a different type of port.”

The USB provided a far more user-friendly experience and removed the need for a specific connector type for differing kinds of equipment. Though an obvious solution now, Bhatt hit a lot of resistance on his road to success, including counting on tech manufacturers to universally adopt the USB technology.

“I had a hard time when people said things couldn't be done, but that's when I got more energy,” Bhatt said, in his interview with Axelrod. “When you get a lot of opposition, you got to feel that you're working on a problem that needs to be solved.”


Reshma Saujani 

Reshma Saujani is an attorney, activist, and founder of Girls Who Code. She is also the first Indian-American woman to run for U.S. Congress. 

“During the race, Reshma visited local schools and saw the gender gap in computing classes firsthand, which led her to start Girls Who Code,” shares the website.

Girls Who Code is focused on removing the gender gap in tech jobs, sharing that the percentage of women in the computer sciences has dropped steadily since 1995. Having reached 450,000 girls through their various educational programs, with a focus on diversity, Girls Who Code hopes to close the gender gap in new entry-level tech jobs by 2030.

Even with a global pandemic, Girls Who Code was able to provide support through remote learning.

“While challenging, the shift to remote learning has allowed Girls Who Code to serve more students, eliminating barriers like geography and pushing our organization to deploy new virtual initiatives to address the needs of our community,” states the organization’s 2020 Annual Report. “We remain committed to supporting girls in the highest-need communities, closing the gender gap in tech, and coming out of this pandemic even stronger.”


Tessa Lau

Dr. Tessa Lau is the founder of Dusty Robotics, a firm that creates robots to automate the construction layout process, and then turn those layouts into full-size floorplans. The robotic layout means time saved, better accuracy, and less risk for error.

In an interview with Bustle, Lau shared, “There aren't very many women in the construction industry, even fewer Asian American women, and almost none at the CEO level. Like many with my traditional background, I was raised to not take any risks, and play it safe.”

But Lau decided to take that risk, sharing that she is obtaining so much experience through creating her company that she will remain in demand within the industry.

In a recent blog post on the next ten years of construction, Lau shared that construction is still a very paper-heavy field and that will need to change in order for the construction in industry to remain successful.

“Digitization of work in the field turns construction to a data-driven manufacturing process,” Lau writes. “These productivity enhancements to the built environment are the only way we will meet the world’s demand for housing and infrastructure into the mid-21st century.”

Capitol Tech recognizes all of the members of the AAPI community who had such a vital role contributing to the computer sciences, robotics, and technology.

Look for more posts in this series to highlight AAPI contributions to infrastructure, aviation, and space flight.