Monday, October 14, 2013

NCWIT Aspirations in Computing

I once heard a very smart woman say that the best proof for recruiting more young women to be engineers was the fact that there's no good place to put your purse in a crowded car. It's a lighthearted example for a really broad phenomenon: engineers solve the problems they face. And if only one type of person becomes an engineer, then a lot of problems go unsolved. 

This very smart woman was Ruthe Farmer, the voice of the National Center for Women and Information Technology's Award for Aspirations in Computing. They give awards to young women, but it's not for being the top app developer in North America, or writing your own operating system by the age of twelve. As the name suggests, it's for showing potential and passion in the field of computing--and that can be almost anything. It's not a joke award designed to boost self-esteem; it's a carefully-selected talent search meant to expand the pipeline of women taking computer classes, pursuing STEM degrees, entering the workforce, and solving problems. 

When I applied, I was really excited about building a translator in Java and the club I started to teach my little sister and her friends about science and engineering. When I won the Ohio award my junior year, I was invited into an incredibly vibrant community. Girls across the country were talking about their robotics teams, their frustrating classes, their college applications, their summer internships, and most of all, their stories. Even though I was one of three girls in my AP Computer Science class, I didn't feel alone because so many girls experience that. 

When I won the National Award my senior year, I felt like the whole world opened up. I got to meet the most amazing people, including some of my future classmates and friends (shoutout to Marissa Halpert!). I got to tour the Bank of America R&D labs, which was like seeing the future six months in advance. I won a laptop and all kinds of corporate swag, and got to go on all-expenses-paid trips to Charlotte, NC, and Tucson, AZ for their National Summit after my freshman year of college. 

Everyone should apply for Aspirations. It's a quick application, but it unquestionably changed the direction of my undergraduate education, opened new horizons and opportunities to discover new interests, like computational biology or robotic exoskeletons... or robots based on biological inspiration. 

I wasn't a math whiz or a coding genius, but NCWIT saw the potential to use computers to change things in the medical field, in education, or in everyday life. All you need is the first tiny spark of great things to come. 

Apply for the Aspirations award here

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1 comment:

  1. Hey! I won the national award this year, and the one thing I've been wondering is... What type of laptop do they give us????:-D