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Gift of Stories: UWCSEA alumnus Wangdrak trailblazing for Bhutanese youth

Wangdrak ‘20, UWCSEA and UWCSEA Communications team
27 September 2022

In our Gift of Stories series, we share more about our community’s spirit of giving, one story at a time. Join us as we discover how #UWCSEAGiving makes a difference.

Wangdrak UWCSEA

Meet Wangdrak ‘20, a Bhutanese UWCSEA alumnus from Babesa, Thimphu. During his time at UWCSEA, Wangdrak made the most of every opportunity and explored academics, activities, service and societies that allowed him to develop fully, giving him the space and time to apply both his critical thinking abilities and creativity.

“I always carry my UWCSEA core values and lessons with me, applying them not only in my current research but also towards my long term goal of helping youth in Bhutan to have easier access to resources and opportunities in STEM."

He was a member of the Initiative for Peace (IfP), a programme that motivates students to become peace-builders.

“The IfP was a booster for many skills such as public speaking, confidence and a sense of camaraderie in community building. Looking back at the conference, even at times where I am overwhelmed by a negative outcome, restores my faith that in the fight against problems of this generation, we’re not alone and victory is not impossible.”

Wangdrak has always gravitated toward the STEM field, channelling his curiosity for problem-solving.

“Working on my biology extended essay, I learned practical application and skills. Although my methodology for a study of the preservative powers of chillies against bacteria had significantly changed every time I experimented, irrespective of the number of trials, your current experiment can always be a pilot experiment for your next one.”

He also explored his creative interests when he joined the DJ Club and Rubik’s Club at East Campus and participated in dance performances for Culturama, an event that celebrates our community’s diversity. As part of the United World Stories series on social media, Wangdrak used animation to retell the story of the Burning Lake in Bhutan's Tang Valley, a story passed down from his grandparents.

"The UWCSEA experience has been an eye-opening journey which has shaped my understanding of the world. It helped nurture essential skills of critical thinking and values of compassion and integrity, all while being part of a wonderful tightly knit community.”


Now, Wangdrak is a third-year Computer Science scholar at Brown University. Wangdrak also works part-time as a NASA DEVELOP Team Co-lead, using Earth Observations data.

Wangdrak in the present


While in his first year at Brown University, he worked on a project using NASA satellite data to develop solutions to monitor rice plantations in Bhutan, during the period of rice transplantation (June) to harvest (November). In 2022, his team utilised NASA and ESA Earth observations within the Google Earth Engine platform to create a graphical user interface that provides a visual representation of rice distribution trends across Bhutan. 

The project aimed to help Bhutan's Department of Agriculture improve rice production and crop management across the country amidst deteriorating soil health and outbreaks of diseases and pests associated with the global change in climate patterns (taken from Bhutan Agriculture: Developing A Crop Mask For Rice And Creating A Data Collection Protocol Utilising Remotely Sensed Data In Bhutan). 

Wangdrak’s journey at UWCSEA and beyond is a wonderful example of the impact of community giving and how it can support the growth and development of future changemakers. Gifts from the 2017 Annual Fund sponsored Wangdrak's scholarship from 2018 to 2020.

#UWCSEAGiving represents a future with possibilities and potential, inspiring more young people like Wangdrak to be the change they want to see in the world.

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Wangdrak’s Graduating Scholar reflections