How the U.S. government learned it could save $234 million on toner

My name is Suvir Mirchandani. I am a sophomore at Fox Chapel Area High School in Pittsburgh, Penn., and I’ve always had a passion for computer science and its applications in conservation. In one of my recent research projects, I estimated that the United States federal, state and local governments could save $234 million per year in toner costs by switching typefaces in their printed documents. I published my findings in the Journal of Emerging Investigators, and my work was featured in the News section of Science  in March 2014. And then the media called.

I was interviewed by CNN, CBS This Morning  and HuffPost Live. I was written about in the Financial Times , and got shout outs on Twitter from Ellen DeGeneres, Troy Polamalu and Rand Paul! In about 10 days, my story appeared in tens of thousands of publications worldwide. All this intense media attention was surreal, to put it mildly!

I was just starting to recover when I received a letter from HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman, inviting me to visit HP’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. I could scarcely believe it.

When my family and I arrived at HP Labs, I received a warm welcome and was taken on a tour where I learned about some of HP’s groundbreaking research. When we entered Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard’s offices, which haven’t changed since the ’70s, I felt like I was on hallowed ground. This place has a fascinating history and quite literally changed the world.

My time with Thom Brown, HP’s Inkologist (follow him on Twitter @PrintWithThom), proved to be an afternoon of exciting revelations. I learned about the continual innovation that ink-making demands and about the many intricate details involved in perfecting HP’s printer ink. He also talked about the distinction between high-quality ink, like HP’s, and low-quality inks.

To wrap up the day, I gave a presentation entitled “Improving Quality of Life with Cost-Effective Computing” to a team of 20 researchers and engineers at HP. I also had a chance to address and rebut criticisms about my project that had appeared in the press. It was gratifying to be able to speak to an informed, receptive and open-minded audience. At the reception that followed, I got to interact with them, enjoy delicious treats and even have a picture taken with CTO Martin Fink! I doubt I have ever experienced so many thrills in one day!

My second day at HP began with a tour of the legendary HP Garage. This was my favorite part of the trip because I was visiting the birthplace of not just a premier technology company but also an entire industry. I got to see some of the original HP Audio Oscillators. I was especially impressed by the modesty of the garage interior. I realized that passion, creativity and knowledge are more important than sophisticated equipment and tools.

The grand finale of my visit was getting to have lunch with Ms. Whitman herself! She is clearly a force of nature and is the most inspiring person I have met to date. I thoroughly enjoyed her company, her gracious warmth and her hospitality. For the technophile in me, this whole trip was a like a dream come true! Thanks to everyone at HP who made my visit so memorable.

Check out this video of Suvir’s visit to HP: