Announcing the 2019 Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards Honorees

Announcing the 2019 Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards Honorees


he 2019 Aspirations in Computing Awards ceremony, to be held on April 17th marks the seventh year that we recognize top level national and state award recipients from high schools in Minnesota. This year we recognize 37 young women for their technology related interests and achievements.  Family, friends, teachers, and local business partners and sponsors will come together to support and celebrate these young women’s incredible technology achievements.

Along with recognition in local and statewide media, honorees are eligible for a range of Minnesota prizes including job shadow experiences, paid summer internship opportunities, cash rewards, and trophies.  Honorees also receive access to exclusive resources from the National Center of Women and Information Technology (NCWIT).

The ceremony will also recognize Minnesota’s 2019 Aspirations Educator Honorable Mention recipient, George Behnke, Eagan High School, and Minnesota Aspirations Educator of the Year, Sarah Connelly, Highland Park High School – St. Paul.  Numerous other educators who endorsed students will be in attendance to cheer on their students and colleagues.

On behalf of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), and the impressive array of sponsors and partners, the Minnesota State – IT Center of Excellence congratulates all the award recipients for their outstanding achievements.   A higher education and career path to exciting technology related opportunities, awaits you!

Meet the Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards Honorees

2019 Minnesota Winners

Olivia Alberts

Senior at Rosemount High School
Olivia is a State Winner and a 2018 Certificate of Distinction recipient. Her passions include Mandarin Chinese and computer science. An avid leader in her community, Olivia is the president of both her school’s Student Council and National Chinese Honors Society as well as the Varsity captain of her school’s women’s lacrosse team. She is also a Coding for Girls instructor, empowering young girls around her district with a passion for coding and educatingthem on the importance of gender equity in the workplace. As a junior in high school, Olivia was awarded Top Ten Internationally in DECA (Distributive Education Programs of America)’s Travel and Tourism international conference. She also leads Rosemount High School’s Hack Club, a computer science club teaching complete beginners the basics of computer science and igniting them with a passion for the subject. After spending this past summer immersed in Mandarin Chinese in Xi’an, China, Olivia’s eyes were opened to the importance of immersion in language learning and has made it her passion to create a comprehensive language-learning program that truly caters to the essence of efficient language learning. In the future, Olivia plans to attend college to pursue a career in computer science and international business.

Stuti Arora

Junior at Maple Grove Senior High School
Stuti is a State Winner and a 2018 State Honorable Mention recipient. She is an enthusiastic STEM learner with a passion for robotics. Stuti likes to spend every available moment at the Pentagon, her roboticsteam lab. She became interested in programming in elementary school. Since then, she has spent her summers learning and building her skills through self-study, technology camps and an IT internship at Land O’Lakes. Stuti is now the programming lead for her FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team and is nominated for FIRST’s Dean’s List. Stuti started a mentor program called the Crimson GEARs (Girls in Engineering and Robotics) aimed at inspiring and encouraging all girls to participate and stay active in STEM related activities. Starting off small, by going into elementary schools, Stuti hopes to expand this program to every Minnesota school. While maintaining a busy school schedule with several AP classes, Stuti is also enrolled in the University of Minnesota Talented Youth Math Program where she is taking college level calculus courses. Stuti regularly volunteers for Chance Foundation to help and empower underprivileged children. Every other week she volunteers at the Maple Grove Hospital and teaches Hindi language at the community temple. Stuti plans to pursue a degree in computer science in college and seek research opportunities in artificial intelligence and cyber security

Zoe Berg

Senior at Lakeville South High School
Zoe is a National Honorable Mention recipient. She was also honored as a 2018 National Honorable Mention recipient, 2018 State Winner, 2017 State Honorable Mention recipient and 2016 Certificate of Distinction recipient. She started working with computers and robots when she became a founding member of The Green Girls FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team at the age of nine. Over the past six years, Zoe has been the lead CAD designer on her FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics team, developing over sixty 3-D printed and laser-cut parts. She is also the Midwest representative on the FIRST Youth Advisory Committee. She has held three summer internships at Stellar Hearth and EAC Product Development Solutions, designing custom fireplaces and using Python, terminal, breadboards, & Raspberry Pi to program LEDs to mimic embers.In the summer of 2018, Zoe spent a month working with Apple mentors at the Apple Engineering Technology Camp in Cupertino, California. In 2018, she won the FIRST Dean’s List Award. She is passionate about teaching others about CAD and STEM and has logged over 600 hours of outreach. Zoe is also passionate about inspiring change, which is exhibited in her experiences with the United Nations. She presented at the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science event in February of this year, and she presented at the 2018 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum. In 2017, Zoe presented to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Grace Bowe

Junior at Edina High School
Grace is a State Winner. Ever since she was a little girl, she was intrigued by putting things together and making them work. Her passion for STEM classes inspired her to help start the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team at Richfield Middle School in seventh grade as well as guide a Girl Scout troop through earning STEM badges. The next year, the Edina FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team Piece of Cake recruited her. Grace wanted to make FTC more accessible to girls, so she started Tough Cookies, the first all-girls team in Edina. Grace continued taking STEM classes, both in and out of school, and mentored a new FLL team. Upon entering high school, Grace was quick to join the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 1816, the Green Machine, for a very successful season. Her passion for inspiring girls continues as she still actively mentors Edina’s all-girls FTC teams. She participated in the team’s STEM advocacy trip to Washington, DC and was active in outreach, particularly mentoring underrepresented populations in STEM activities. Grace is a leader in the Hour of Code program for Edina and has been instrumental in the development and creation of one of the most advantageous mechanisms on her team’s robot. In the future, Grace plans to major in computational and systems biology and minor in tech design. She hopes to develop technology to better understand the connections between inherited genes and disease statistics.

Anna Carow

Senior at Lakeville North High School
Anna is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She is a captain of the Science Olympiad, Math League, and Debate teams. Anna took AP Computer Science A and finished her final semester in the STEM Academy program in her school district. Anna plans to major in computer engineering in college, where she hopes to focus specifically on the Internet of Things (IoT) — the network of devices connected to the internet. After learning about the IoT from a topic on the debate team, Anna completed an internship at EAC, where she focused on connecting machines in Denmark to the IoT platform ThingWorx. Last summer, Anna completed an internship at Morrissey, a metals manufacturing company. She designed custom tooling for Morrissey using MasterCam CAD software to program Lasers and VMC machines. Intrigued by Morrissey’s inability to implement novel technologies such as those used at EAC, Anna wants to fuse her interests in the IoT and technological accessibility throughout college and her career by finding ways to implement novel IoT technologies in companies which traditionally opt out of the latest computing advancements.

Anita Chetty

Sophomore at East Ridge High School
Anita is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She joined a FIRST Lego League (FLL) team in fifth grade. In middle school, she developed her programming skills by learning Java. Anita pursued her love for robotics by joining East Ridge High School’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team. She also became a founding member of RPM Robotics, a FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team, in ninth grade. She is currently the captain and only girl on her FTC team and will attend the 2019 FIRST World Championship in April withher team. Anita was also recognized as a FIRST Dean’s List Finalist for her leadership, outreach, and passion for her work in the STEM community. As a musician, Anita is an enthusiastic advocate for STEAM programs and plans to build a stronger connection between STEM and the arts by developing STEAM classes with her FTC team that incorporate robotics elements in the students’ artwork. This past summer, Anita volunteered in a lab at the University of Minnesota’s Neuroscience department. She learned from shadowing and working with undergraduate and graduate students on research related to neurodegenerative diseases. Anita aims to major in neuroscience and continue to foster her love for both engineering and space by minoring in space science and engineering.

Quinn Cowing

Junior at Edina High School
Quinn is a State Honorable Mention recipient and received a 2018 Certificate of Distinction. While she has had many eye-opening interactions with technology in Minnesota, her love for technology started in Northwest Arkansas, where she grew up. She was first exposed to engineering through EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology), a program built to help kids learn more about the environment and technology. She worked with the local water department and university to learn ArcGIS and GPS technologies. When she moved to Minnesota, she learned Revit, Inventor, and Java. As a junior in high school, Quinn is using what she learned about programming Java in an AP computer science course to code her FIRST technology competition robot. Since she attended a RaikesSchool programming camp in the summer of 2018, Quinn has learned how to apply her basic knowledge of Java to a more practical usage in robotics. This year she was the primary coder for her all-girls robotics team. While she aspires to be an environmental engineer, possibly a hydrologist, she loves computer science. Quinn plans to attend college and would love to study projects based on global warming, water pollution, and the creation and innovation of medical technologies.

Nora Dixon

Sophomore at Eagan High School
Nora is a State Honorable Mention recipient and received a Certificate of Distinction in 2018. She is involved with Technovation and FIRST Tech Challenge robotics. Her Technovation team, Computer Glitz, has been a World Semi-Finalist twice. They created apps for babysitters, for Meals on Wheels, for teaching youth about the stock market with a game, and for students looking at postsecondary technical college options. Nora and her team presented their app “Hands On”at Minnedemo and presented their app “Sell Buy Play” at Normandale Community College for the Twin Cities Code Camp. She is on a robotics team called the Thunder PengWins, which has advanced to state twice and does a lot of volunteer work to bring STEM to youth and the community. Nora presented to the United Nations in New York City about cost-effective STEM curriculum and a girl’s experience in STEM. She has a lot of technical expertise and demonstrates it through teaching others. She has planned and led many events for young girls to participate in hands-on STEM learning. The events have been for Coder Dojo, Girls Are Powerful, and Girl Scouts. Nora has received the Target TWIST Grand Prize EPIC Award, was a FIRST Dean’s List Semi-Finalist and has earned her Girl Scout Silver Award with a STEM focus.

Anjali Donthi

Sophomore at Century High School
Anjali is a State Winner. She has been an active member of Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) for five years including a top ten ranking in the Southern Minnesota Chapter (Rochester area). In eighth grade, she competed at the National High School Coding Competition and her team placed first nationwide. She also volunteered at BDPA to develop their website and help students. Anjali has been actively participating in Technovation for four years and has led her team as project manager and CEO for the past two years. Her team’s “Bridge” app scored the highest out of all the high school teams in Minnesota, which qualified them for MN Cup, a business startup competition. At MN Cup, they were awarded the “Best Innovation in Financial Wellness.” Her team has partnered with the Rochester Diversity Council and plans to release “Bridge” by the end of this year. Anjali was selected to be on the Technovation Minnesota Board as a Student Representative and helps plan workshops that help teams learn about app design, development, and video editing. Anjali has the ambition to attend college and pursue a major in biomedical science and a minor in computer science. She currently volunteers at Mayo Clinic in a hospital setting and wants to use her experience in both fields to improve the lives of people by using biomedical innovations.

Lara Erdmann

Senior at Rosemount High School
Lara is a State Honorable Mention recipient and a 2018 Certificate of Distinction recipient. From a very young age, she has had a deep passion for helping others and problem solving. After taking her first computer science course, Lara realized she could merge these two passions and pursue computing for social good. She is particularly passionate about the eradication of human trafficking. Lara hopes to build technologies to quickly identify and rescue victims and to identify and apprehend their handlers. She is now in her second year of computer science and is taking a number of advanced placement, College in the Schools, and dual enrollment courses. Lara is actively involved in her school and community as the vice president of the National Honor Society, member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, English Language Learner (ELL) classroom assistant, and leader of Abolitionists of the 21st Century. Much of her time is spent training with the Minneapolis Rowing Club, where she is a member of the junior team. She will continue rowing with the University of Minnesota’s Division I team the next four years. Lara is planning to major in computer science with a minor in sociology of law, criminology and deviance.

Mary Ghebremeskal

Freshman at South High School
Mary is a State Winner and National Honorable Mention recipient. She is a member of the Math Team, Sisters ‘n’ Tech Coding Club, school musical, book club, and the Asian Student Association. Through the end of 2018, she worked as a teen mentor with Cyber Seniors, a non-profit that connects older generations to technology and works to bridge the digital divide. Mary attended the Silicon Valley North Stars program, which inspired and taught her about entrepreneurship and how to become a future leader in technology. Her first experience with programming was a three-day girls-only coding camp at the University of Minnesota. Because of this experience, the stereotype that computer science was a field designed for men was completely dismantled for her, pushing her to break more barriers. She built her first website with Minnecoders in 2017 using HTML and CSS, where she created an informative platform for discussing modern day slavery. She went on to work more with computer software and worked at Best Buy Teen Tech Center in the summer of 2018. She spent her time there teaching youth how to use the space and created tutorials and projects to get people interested in STEM. Mary plans to attend New York University Shanghai to pursue majors in computer science and law. After college, she plans to move to China and travel across the world.

Poorva Halbe

Senior at Eden Prairie High School
Poorva is a State Winner and National Honorable Mention recipient. She has participated on the Talon Robotics team for four years. Out of those four years, she was an Engineering Captain/Lead for two years and a robot driver for two years. Poorva was also a robot driver and engineering captain for two years in middle school. In the 2017-2018 season of the FIRST Robotics Competition, she was honored as a National Dean’s List finalist. In high school, she became a founding member of a programming club called Girls Who Code, which has grown to over 50 members. One of her favorite technological achievements was when she taught herself CAD using Creo Parametric and YouTube tutorials in seventh grade. Currently, she works more with Solidworks and has gained years of experience in various 3D CAD programs. Some projects that she hopes will become a reality for her in the future include real-time surgical 3D imaging, instantaneous portable genome mapping and 3D printed organs. Poorva plans to go to college for biomedical/materials engineering or for a pre-medical track with the goal of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon. She volunteers her free time mentoring several FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) middle school robotics teams and is involved with the National Honor Society at her school. She also works as an instructor teaching young students how to program.

Grace Hansen

Senior at Eagan High School
Grace is a National Honorable Mention recipient. She was also honored as a 2018 National Honorable Mention recipient, 2018 State Winner, 2017 State Honorable Mention recipient and 2016 Certificate of Distinction recipient. She discovered her passion for engineering in second grade when she started building LEGO robots, and she has been on a FIRST Robotics team ever since. Currently, Grace is a programmer, builder, and driver of the wheels on The Green Girls Robotics team. She has incorporated many unique algorithms, sensors, and state machines into the robot’s code in order to create consistent programs. Grace uses her strategic mindset and quick thinking to navigate the robot around the field and score points. She is in the top five percent of her class and won the Target EPIC TWIST award. Grace has spoken at United Nations (UN)conferences the past two years advocating for women’s participation in STEM, and she is working on a UN project called Goal Chasers that focuses on sustainability and recycling. Grace has held internships at Aspirations Partner companies SPS Commerce and Land O’ Lakes in the Cloud Engineering and PC Deployment departments. At SPS Commerce she completed a project to help automate cloud services in Amazon Web Services (AWS). In high school, she likes to stay involved in her community by serving as a chemistry and computer science teacher’s assistant, a peer tutor, a LINK leader, and a National Honor Society officer. After graduating from high school, Grace plans to major in mechanical engineering and product design at a four-year university.

Amiyah Hunter

Senior at Roseville Area High School
Amiyah is a State Winner and National Winner. Her love for technology began when she joined the Girls Who Code program at the University of Minnesota. She instantly fell in love with coding and went on to complete both the beginners and intermediate coding classes. Prior to the start of her senior year, Amiyah completed eight weeks of summer training through the Genesys Works program where she expanded her technical knowledge and sharpened her leadership skills. Amiyah is currently taking AP Computer Science courses at Roseville Area High School. Amiyah’s greatest technical accomplishment has been expanding her knowledge of HTML, Java, and CSS and building a Homework Help website for students to provide them with resources for getting help with their homework. The skills that she learned in Girls Who Code and during eight weeks of training has prepared her for success at Land O’Lakes, where she currently works as an IT Intern. Because of her success in the Genesys Works program, Amiyah was selected to represent Genesys Works at her school as a Student Ambassador. She is also the vice president of the African American Leadership Club and an active member of Girl Scouts. Amiyah is passionate about social justice and African American studies and plans to major in computer science at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the fall. Her dream after college is to work in the IT field as a front-end web developer for a large corporation.

Shaza Hussein

Senior at Rosemount High School
Shaza is a National Honorable Mention recipient. She was also honored as a 2018 State Winner. Whether it be participating in the invention fair as a child or gaining experience in engineering by incorporating technology like conductive thread into clothing to create ’smart clothing’, she has always had an intense attraction to STEM. Her favorite classes usually reside within the realm of science and math. Last year, Shaza was enrolled in AP Computer Science. She is now enrolled in Advanced Computer Science, a data structures and algorithms course. Shaza was recently accepted into Stanford University, where she will major in symbolic systems and minor in computer science. With this degree she hopes to become a leader in the climate justice community by creating computational systems (machine learning, decision analysis and optimization, numerical analysis, etc.) that manage societal needs for sustainable development. At Rosemount High School, she is involved in High School Democrats, Abolitionists of the 21st Century, and National Honor Society. Outside of school, she is involved in Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota and the Minnesota Can’t Wait Campaign. Shaza hopes to use all the skills gained throughout her life to pursue her passion in technology and computing and to craft a better world

Avni Jain

Senior at Eden Prairie High School
Avni is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Her passion for STEM started when she participated in her first science fair at the age of five. In seventh grade, Avni developed an app called “Allergen Alert!” that identifies allergens in food products using the barcode. She has taken every computer science class her high school has to offer, ranging from AP Java to iOS development to further her expertise. Alongside students from her computer science classes, Avni planned an Hour of Code event for elementary and middle school students in her district. She is now developing a mobile application called “H2GO!” to teach young children about the implications of water contamination. Avni is a US Bank App Challenge finalist, Technovation competitor, and Cooper Hewitt Design Challenge competitor for her “H2GO!” app. Under the guidance of Dr. Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari, Avni conducted research at the University of Minnesota in the summer of 2018, where she explored the application of tissue engineering using 3D bio-printed hydrogels. Avni is actively involved in various science fairs, Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, and DECA. As the captain of Science Olympiad and Science Bowl, Avni has worked to recruit members, create teams, and overall encourage team comradery.  Outside of academics, she is a synchronized swimmer on her high school team and enjoys spending time with her friends. Avni plans on pursuing a major in computer science in college.

Isabella Kemling

Senior at Southwest High School
Isabella is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Her interest in technology began when she was in fifth grade and decided to join her school’s FIRST LEGO League program. Isabella has remained involved in robotics for the past eight years on an all-girls Minneapolis team known as RUBIES. Participating in robotics has exposed her to many skills such as programming in Java and using CAD software to design and create functional robots. Isabella works to ensure that all students have access to a quality STEM education throughout the city of Minneapolis, regardless of their race, gender, or socio-economic background. With her team, she has created and mentored new robotics teams, designed and implemented a STEM curriculum, and advocated for the importance of public funding for STEM education. For the past two summers, Isabella has worked at the Bakken Museum helping kids create their own inventions and showing them just how fun and rewarding STEM can be. Outside of robotics, she is a captain of her school’s debate team and a member of her school’s National Honor Society. She also plays the saxophone, wind ensemble, and is in the jazz band. Isabella plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering while continuing to advocate for the importance of STEM programs in schools.

Ava Kian

Senior at Southwest High School
Ava is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was introduced to STEM through the FIRST LEGO League program in the fifth grade. Ava has developed a passion for STEM through her eight years on the RUBIES FIRST robotics team. Through outreach initiatives such as SHINE and Minneapolis Urban Robotics Alliance (MURA), her team has expanded STEM access in underserved areas of Minneapolis by implementing a STEM-based curriculum in two Minneapolis community centers and by creating new urban FIRST Tech Challenge teams. Ava is committed to creating equal access to STEM education for underserved students. Throughout her high school career, Ava has worked as a camp innovation counselor at the Bakken Museum and as a Code Sensei at Code Ninjas. Ava is also a full-time Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities to pursue a degree in environmental engineering. Both experiences have heightened her love of technology and innovation, making her optimistic for a future that will utilize technology for the benefit of the earth.

Shin-Tsz (Lucy) Kuo

Senior at Wayzata High School
Lucy is a State Winner and 2018 State Honorable Mention recipient. Her interest in technology began at an early age where she attended various STEM programs around the Twin Cities, such as CoderDojo and SPARCS. Last summer, she attended the Girls Who Code camp and continued her education through self-taught programs, such as Codecademy and W3Schools. She is intrigued by the prevalence of code in everyday applications and the potential it has to bring ideas to life. The versatility of technology inspired her to pursue STEM and cultivate her passion for engineering. During the school year, Lucy participates in the National Honor Society and the Chamber Orchestra, and she runs on the varsity track team. She has competed in graphic design and video production competitions for Business Professionals of America. She enjoys writing, art, photography, poetry, and volunteering her free time. Lucy joined a coding club at the University of Minnesota and plans on furthering her aspirations by taking mobile and web computing courses in college.

Katie Liu

Junior at Wayzata High School
Katie is a State Honorable Mention recipient. From a young age, she has found herself interested in math and science. She explores these interests by taking vigorous classes such as AP Physics, Chemistry, and Calculus, earning her an AP Scholar with Distinction award. Katie began programming in C++ as a freshman and learned Java in AP Computer Science class. She also practices her programming skills outside of school. Recently, Katie won first place in Java programming for Business Professionals of America. Katie is a Science Olympiad event leader and Link leader for freshmen at her high school. Katie believes in the importance of girls supporting and encouraging each other in STEM fields, and she executes this goal by explaining or walking through difficult concepts with her friends. In the future, Katie will attend college and is considering pursuing a major in electrical engineering.

Shayla Lunn

Senior at Rosemount High School
Shayla is a State Honorable Mention recipient and received a Certificate of Distinction in 2018. She splits her time between Rosemount High School and Inver Hills Community College where she takes Postsecondary Enrollment classes. At her high school, she is involved in many groups such as the National Honor Society, the French Honor Society, Hack Club, the golf team, and the swim team. Through the Built by Girls program, she was able to work with a mentor from Amazon who helped her explore her interest in technology. Shayla is very passionate about encouraging other young women to be involved with STEM too. She teaches a Coding for Girls class at her local elementary school to encourage students to pursue STEM careers in the future. Shayla is passionate about giving back to the community, and she tutors elementary school students who are English language learners. She is also a mentor to an elementary school student to help her view learning as fun. Shayla’s favorite volunteer event is the Shamrock Ball, a prom for students with disabilities. Following high school, Shayla plans to go to college to study engineering.

Izzie Mack

Senior at Southwest High School
Izzie is a State Winner and a National Honorable Mention recipient. Her interest in STEM was sparked when she joined FIRST Robotics in fourth grade. Since then she has been a member of the RUBIES, an all-girls robotics team that competed in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) World Championship the past two years. Izzie has gained invaluable problem-solving and technical skills, such as CAD and manufacturing methods. She is passionate about STEM outreach as well, helping to develop an urban robotics alliance by creating and mentoring four Minneapolis FTC teams. Izzie and her team create curricula to engage underrepresented students in STEM, where they implement the workshops at community centers. In addition, she spoke at the 2018 Minnesota Rally for Science to advocate for increased support of STEM enrichment programs. Izzie works at the Bakken Museum as a youth camp counselor teaching coding and circuits, an exhibit design assistant and a Teen Science Cafe leader. She also attended the Summer Computer Science Institute at Carleton College where she used computer vision, machine learning, and image processing to create an emotion detection program. Izzie is currently the president of the National Honor Society at her high school and plans to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.

Anna Marie Mitchell

Senior at Lakeville North High School
Anna Marie is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She has competed on her FIRST Robotics team for the last six years at regional, state, and international levels. Her journey in STEM began when her older sister’s robotics team needed someone to take on the role as Darwin, their lime-green piranha mascot. Her crowning moment came in 2013, when she and 15 other mascots line-danced in front of a crowd of 30,000 before the final championship match. Anna Marie has made an appearance at the FIRST World Championship every year since 2011 either as Darwin or on a competing team. At the 2015 World Championship, her FIRST LEGO League team won the Creative Presentation Award for their research project on building self-confidence in adolescent girls, which was presented in the form of a slam poem. On her robotics team, Anna Marie loves collaborating with her team members to create unique and innovative systems through CAD, 3D printing, and elbow grease. Outside of her team, she co-directs FIRST Ladies, an international community of girls in robotics and women in STEM, hosting conferences and events, appointing partner teams, and maintaining an online presence. On the rare occasions where Anna Marie is not doing something robotics-related, she is a National Honor Society officer, mellophone section leader in the Lakeville North Marching Band, first-chair French horn, Speech State Finalist, two-time Scholastic Art Award recipient, graphic design intern and part-time barista.

Preeti PidatalaPreeti Pidatala

Senior at Wayzata High School
Preeti is a National Honorable Mention recipient.She was also honored as a 2018 National Honorable Mention recipient and 2017 State Winner.She loves to get engaged withSTEM activities within her community. Preeti is extremely involved on her school’s FIRST robotics team as the captain and as the driver of the robot, which she has done for three years. Her hands-on, passionate personality has helped her make the most of these experiences. She enjoys promoting women in computing by sharing her passion with others. Preeti dedicates her free time to volunteer in her community and mentor other FIRST robotics and LEGO League teams. She also works at a STEM center as an instructor, teaching classes in basic robotics and mathematics. This year, Preeti organized a coding workshop for girls in her neighborhood to introduce them to the world of computer science. When she is not sharing her love for this field with others, Preeti is a curious and motivated learner. She has completed every programming class her school offers, including advanced placement and introductory computing classes in Java, C++, Python, and website design. She is also taking a cybersecurity course through which she has gained professional experience and a mentor. Apart from computer science, Preeti enjoys playing tennis and the piano. She has also been involved in Indian Classical dance for over ten years and enjoys performing throughout Minnesota. Preeti plans to go to college to pursue artificial intelligence and robotic space exploration.

Anindita Rajamani

Sophomore at Highland Park High School
Anindita is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She is interested in cybersecurity and computer science and has been enrolled in Project Lead the Way courses in both of these subjects. Anindita has also conducted research projects in these fields, developing software for wearable inertial measurement sensors and support vector machines for fall detection, and on mobile devices for nutritional applications. She was recognized as a National Broadcom MASTERS in Science semifinalist in 2016 and has received the Science Fair Excellence Award at her regional science fair. Anindita is the editor of her school’s science journal, “The Nucleus”, and a member of the Math Team and the Science Club. In addition to her STEM activities, Anindita enjoys participating on the Student Engagement and Advancement Board, which works with the Board of Education of Saint Paul Public Schools to amplify student voice and create meaningful change. In her free time, she enjoys dancing and acting. Anindita aspires to study computer science in college and continue down that path for her career. She hopes to encourage other girls to pursue careers in STEM, as she believes female representation is vital in these male-dominated fields.

Abigail Rohy

Senior at Convent of the Visitation School
Abigail is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She is passionate about a variety of STEM topics including coding, robotics, chemistry, and biology. Abi has been the programming team lead for the all-girls robotics team, The Robettes, at her high school for the past three years. As part of this leadership role, Abi helps the team with its award-winning outreach programs to encourage other girls in the Midwest region to join coding or related STEM fields. She also created a lunchtime program in which she andher peers work with girls at her high school to encourage and excite them about coding. Their robotics team has gone to the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) World Championships their last two years, earning the prestigious regional Chairman’s Award as well as other awards throughout the year. Outside of robotics, Abi is an avid indoor and outdoor competitive rock climber. In addition to enjoying the sport and the competition, she takes advantage of rock climbing outdoors to enjoy and appreciate nature and the world around us. Abi is also passionate about the arts, as a complement to STEM, singing and acting in numerous competitions, musical theater productions, and plays both inside and outside of her school.

Anusha Sharma

Senior at Eagan High School
Anusha is a State Winner and 2018 State Honorable Mention recipient. Her interests were initially sparked by her involvement in the FIRST Robotics program. This helped her grow and understand the depth of technology and engineering, leading her into programming to be able to code and design projects for her robotics team. She is the lead of Women in Robotics Empowering Sisters (WIRES), which allows her to share her experiences and encourage young females to join STEM fields. Last year, she created an all-female panel called College, Cookies, and Careers, where female professionals from around the Twin Cities were invited to share their experiences in STEM. Anusha participated on the Chairman’s team and was selected as the team’s speaker. The Chairman’s Award is given to teams who make the most STEM impact in their community. Her team was selected as a Chairman’s finalist at the 2018 World Championship in Detroit, Michigan. This year, she is the team captain and outreach lead and will run free camps for underserved children who lack STEM opportunities in their communities. In February, Anusha traveled to the United Nations Headquarters to presentat the International Day of Women and Girls in Science Day. She spoke about building the pipeline of women in STEM by collaborating with female leaders in technology companies. She shared her STEM experiences with world leaders in sessions and streamed live on UN social media platforms. To take her interest in these fields further, Anusha plans to pursue a career in computer science.

Corinn Sievwright

Senior at Eagan High School
Corinn is a State Winner and received a Certificate of Distinction in 2018. She has always excelled in math and science and found her passion for engineering and technology through her six years on a FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team, the Green Girls. Corinn serves as a leader on the build team and as the strategic captain of the drive team. She is passionate about spreading STEM education in her community. She co-founded and is a camp lead of monthly “Girls in Tech” STEM camps for both the PACER Center for Children with Disabilities and her local foster care program. This winter she shared her passion at the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science where she spoke on cost-effective STEM education. With her robotics team, she has advanced to the World Championships four times, winning the Connect Award in 2017 and being a finalist for the Inspire Award in 2018. In the classroom, Corinn has taken courses in engineering, drafting, 3D modeling, graphic design and computer science. Along with her involvement in STEM, she is a leader in her school, serving as secretary of student government. She is a member of her school’s math team and National Honor Society,and she has played soccer since she was six years old. Corinn will be attending the University of Wisconsin -Madison where she plans on incorporating her love for technology and computer science into a mechanical engineering career that can improve the lives of others.

Prapthi Jayesh Sirrkay

Sophomore at Eagan High School
Prapthiis a State Honorable Mention recipient. Since her childhood, she has loved to explore the world of science, technology, and engineering. Her appreciation for the science field was first sparked when she joined a First Lego League team. Prapthi continued to explore the world of science and technology on her First Tech Challenge Team where she played an active role in building the robot. On her FTC team, Prapthi helped run Women in Robotics Empowering Sisters (WIRES), which is a program that encourages women to engage in STEM fields. She also participates on the finance committee of the Eagan High School Women in STEM club in which she is encouraging more young women to pursue STEM careers. Along with her interest and enthusiasm in building robots, Prapthi also has a love for coding. She participates on a Technovation team in which they code applications. She is learning to code in Java and loves to code on the platform Thunkable. Her passion for coding continues to grow as she codes an app to help donations to organizations this year on her Technovation team, Computer Glitz. Prapthi plans to pursue a career in science and technology.

Annie Snyder

Senior at Edina High School
Annie is a State Winner and a National Honorable Mention recipient. She is the CAD lead on 1816 The Green Machine, her FIRST Robotics Challenge team, and a co-captain of the CyberPatriotteam. With both of these groups, Annie organizes and participates in outreach aimed to give more STEM opportunities to under-served populations. Her introduction to computing was through robotics, as she first learned CAD in FIRST Tech Challenge. An internship revolving around the use of Mathematica to run simulations further expanded her passion for computers. She then got hooked on computer science through APCS and expanded her knowledge with project Euler. Annie continues to pursue computer science through the Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program at the University of Minnesota. This past summer, she worked at the Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at the University of Paris, where she used Python to simulate neural networks and analyze the process of information transfer through graph theory. After graduating high school, she plans to attend college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she hopes to study computer science, linguistics, and philosophy. She is interested specifically in human computer interaction, language processing, and artificial intelligence.

Rachel Springer

Junior at Southwest High School
Rachel is a State Winner and 2018 State Honorable Mention recipient. She initially became interested in technology when she joined the FIRST Lego League program at her school in fourth grade. She has continued with FIRST robotics programs and is currently a member of RUBIES, a FIRST Tech Challenge team. Rachel leads her robotics team in programming and mechanical design. She has learned four different CAD programs for designing custom parts and subsystems. She loves learning new algorithms and finding applications of mathematics to programming, and she worked as a software engineer intern at Aspirations partner SPS Commerce last summer. Rachel is very passionate about leaving an impact on her city’s community and making STEM accessible to all students. With her team, Rachel helped start and mentor new FTC teams in Minneapolis public schools through the Minneapolis Urban Robotics Alliance and regularly leads STEM activities at the Brian Coyle Community Center. She uses what she has learned through robotics and is leading the software development for a project to create a moveable underwater camera system for University of Minnesota biology researchers. As a member of Southwest High School’s math team and the all-state math team, she has placed in the top three in the division for the past three years. Rachel is a member of the National Honor Society and enjoys playing clarinet in her school’s wind ensemble.

Grace Su

Senior at Mounds View High School
Grace is a National Honorable Mention recipient. She was also honored as a 2018 State Winner. Grace started learning to code in the fifth grade. She taught herself how to program the LEGO Mindstorms robot as well as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Java, and Python, and she attended several summer programming camps at universities. Grace currently pays close attention to the development of artificial intelligence (AI). In 2017, she wrote an award-winning essay titled “Unemployment in the AI Age.” She also wrote a science fiction story about AI called “The Guardian” to imagine how AI could be used to benefit society and encourage the public to embrace the development of safe AI. This story received an Honorable Mention Award from the Minnesota Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She is engaged in women-in-technology events such as TWIST Science and Technology Day, Discovering IT Day hosted by General Mills, and SPARCSdoesMicrosoft. In her community, Grace encourages girls to participate in STEM. Grace founded the Girls’ APPspirations program and the Girls App Development & AI club, which is the first STEM club dedicated to girls in her high school. She has also been actively involved in the Science Olympiad since middle school, participating in local, state and national competitions. To give back to the program, she writes or supervises tests for regional elementary and middle school Science Olympiad events. To follow her passion, Grace wants to major in computer science in college.

Sahana Vandayar

Junior at Maple Grove Senior High School
Sahana is a State Winner. Initially introduced to computing in fifth grade, Sahana became interested in programming through block coding. Since then, she developed skills in languages such as Python, Java, and HTML. Sahana is the outreach captain as well as a programming veteran on her school’s FIRST Robotics team. To spread the opportunity of robotics internationally, she initiated a FIRST LEGO League Junior robotics program in Punggol Meadows, Singapore in 2017. This past year, she worked with FIRST Robotics teams in Brazil and Uruguay to create a trilingual curriculum for aspiring FIRST LEGO League teams throughout North and South America. In addition to robotics, Sahana is a Girl Scout Ambassador who has earned Bronze and Silver Awards. For her Girl Scout Gold Award, she initiated an educational program named Computer Science for Kids. With branches in Singapore and Brooklyn Park, the program provides basic programming and computer training through the guidance of high school mentors for students in first through third grades. Sahana is currently working to expand the program throughout her greater community. She is also a Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) dancer. Together with three other dancers, she performed a two-hour concert to raise funds for Metro Meals on Wheels in 2017. Sahana is the secretary for her school’s Student Government and the outreach lead for Maple Grove GirlUp. In the future, Sahana hopes to pursue a career in computing.

Afiya Ward

Junior at Central High School
Afiya is a State Honorable Mention recipient and received a Certificate of Distinction in 2018. Growing up with both of her parents in STEM careers, Afiya has been interested in science and technology for as long as she can remember. As a middle school student at Capitol Hill, she participated in a program at the Science Museum of Minnesota called Design Team, which focused on introducing youth to STEM and STEM justice through hands-on projects and experiential learning. Since then, she has worked with a high school team in the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center called Bits to Bites, working on innovative ways to solve issues around food justice using technology as a resource. With Bits to Bites, Afiya has developed and facilitated workshops with youth and community members, and she has presented at conferences around the state about the work she is doing. She looks forward to continuing her work with this program, as she is passionate about solving issues regarding food justice, and she hopes to design systems in the future that would make healthy food more accessible to communities around the world. In her free time, Afiya volunteers in her community with political campaigns, tutoring, and upkeep in a community garden, and she has played varsity basketball since her freshman year.

Julie Wojtiw-Quo

Senior at Lake of the Woods High School
Julie is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She has been involved with computers and technology since a young age. Julie’s interest in applying technology to world issues sparked when she joined the Junior First LEGO League in second grade, tackling ideas such as climate change and magnetic levitation. She continued to develop her computing skills by taking as many computing classes as are offered at her school, learning to code in HTML and RobotC, as well as teaching herself Python and JavaScript. She joined her high school robotics team in ninth grade, taking on the lead programming and robot driver roles within their small team. Julie has been the captain of the robotics team for the past two years. Her goal is to inspire other young women to pursue their engineering and science interests and to share her passion for programming with others. She has begun to do this by recruiting new members to the robotics team as well as sharing her love for robotics with kids at community events. Julie is a member of the National Honor Society and participates in cross-country running, basketball, and track and field. She also enjoys playing the trumpet in her school’s pep band. In her free time, she enjoys coding, reading books and playing video games with her younger siblings. Julie plans to pursue a career in computer engineering or computer science.

Olivia Yang

Senior at Fridley High School
Olivia is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She has been heavily involved in her school’s FIRST robotics team since she joined as a sophomore. Last year, Olivia worked with mentors to program and test autonomous programs for her team’s robot. In their 2017-18 season, they placed amongst the top ten teams in Minnesota. Olivia also works on the Hennepin County Library’s Teen Tech Squad, where she creates and leads STEAM programs for local youth. She is very excited to work with a team to create a summer coding club they are planning to launch this summer. Olivia also leads her school’s science club to create activities and engineering challenges to expose students to real STEM problems and solutions. Aside from science and technology, Olivia enjoys playing music. She participates in two jazz bands, her school’s pit orchestra, concert band, and city band, and she loved playing with the Minnesota Sinfonia as a part of their youth program this past summer. Olivia hopes to expand her abilities and experiences in computing to develop skills in multiple programming languages and work on interesting problems.

Amal Yusuf

Senior at Irondale High School
Amal is a State Winner and a National Honorable Mention recipient. She is a full-time Postsecondary Enrollment Options  (PSEO) student at Concordia University. Amal participates in the National Honor Society at her high school and is on the Dean’s List at Concordia University. During her years in high school, she participated in Debate, Black Student Union, and Mock Trial. Now at Concordia, she participates in the Muslim Student Association. During her free time, she volunteers at local hospitals, Unity and Mercy, where she has been volunteering for the past four years. She has also participated in Hack the Gap, a hackathon that is meant to inspire young women. Amal was inspired to get involved in the tech field after joining Genesys Works, a program that provides pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities. Through this experience, she was fascinated enough to learn more, and both her curiosity and hard work landed her an internship at Deluxe Corporation where she works closely with the IT security department. She is also  a student ambassador for Genesys Works. Her main focus is recruiting juniors at her high school with curiosity and ambition to learn about business and technology. She aspires to double major in computer science and marketing. After graduating, she would like to pursue a master’s degree in cybersecurity in hopes to work for the government and protect others from the dangers of hacking.

2019 Aspirations in Computing Certificate of Distinction and Rising Star Honorees

The Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards Committee congratulates 65 young women from Minnesota High Schools for being recognized as a Certificate of Distinction or Rising Star Honoree.

The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) selected 45 Certificate of Distinction Honorees whose scores were relatively strong, as evidenced by their engagement in a variety of technology and leadership experiences offered in their high school and community.

The Minnesota Aspirations committee also selected 20 Rising Star Honorees who demonstrated engagement in a mixture of technology education and leadership experiences, showing strong promise to be successful pursuing a technology education and career path.

2019 Certificate of Distinction or Rising Star Honoree  

Sarah Connelly

Teacher at Highland Park High School – St. Paul
Sarah Connelly has been teaching Biology at Saint Paul Highland Park High School for the past 21 years. She currently teaches three different Biology classes (grades 9-12). After coaching high school soccer for 15 years, Sarah shifted her focus to providing opportunities to young women in the science and technology fields and started and ran an after school Science and Engineering Club at her school. Sarah had the pleasure of mentoring the school’s first International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) Finalist and has mentored numerous other students in computer and technological fields during her career. Her interest lies in providing support for students interested in the tech field and making sure they are aware of all of their opportunities. The growing field of biotechnology is a huge interest to her and she is frequently showing her classes new breakthroughs thanks to technology.

2019 Minnesota Educator Honorable Mention Award

George Behnke

Teacher at Eagan High School
George graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BS degree in Computer Science. During his 30 year career in the software development industry, he worked for Sperry Univac, Lawson Software, and for over 20 years at Cray Research Inc. (and all its follow-on companies). He worked many technical positions coding, designing, and supporting a variety of customers. George found himself taking online management and project management positions (co-mingled with some returns to technical contributor). While his children attended Eagan High School, George began tutoring remedial math classes at their school (before he went to work at Cray each day). George tutored from 1995 to 2010 as a volunteer.

After George retired from industry,he re-introduced AP® Computer Science at EHS during the 2010-11 school year. Throughout the past nine years, he taught AP® Computer Science each year, trained a
licensed math teacher how to teach the class, and handed primary responsibilities for this class to her. He now assists her with teaching 75+ students taking the course each school year.

During the 2015-16 school year, George created and introduced the Mobile Application Development class at Eagan High School. This class introduces students to all the current requirements such as planning, creation, tracking, and deployment activities in the software development industry.

All of his students are aware of his affinity for storytelling and he seems to have a story for almost every lesson they learn. George is especially interested in promoting a diverse software development workforce and educating the students to participate and excel in their own way.

Special Thanks to our Educator Endorsers

The following people provided support and endorsement to one or more of the selected award honorees. On behalf of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Award Committee, the honorees and their families, we wish to acknowledge and express our appreciation for the education and career readiness support they’ve provided.

Deborah Arnold
Liv Anda Asplund
George Behnke
Shannon Braun
Sarah Connelly
Julie Cutshall
Ann Dixon
Brian Fendrich
Charlotte Foran
Susan Fox
Colin Gardner-Springer
Karl Griffin
Crystal Huynh
Matt Johnson
Lawrence Koszewski
Tika Kude
Ginny McCright
David McMayer
Valerie Meyer
Nick Milleson
Jennifer Nelson
Kaitie O’Bryan
Eilene Olese
Rob Perala
Jane Peterson
Nancy Poulos
Thomas Reinartz
Ryan Smolarek
Joseph Wenc
Virginia Wiandt
Wing Yi Wong
Morgan Wylie

GRAND PRIZE: Summer Internships

This is the seventh year the awards program has offered an internship as a Grand Prize. This year we are delighted that four companies are providing 9 honorees a summer paid internship. We extend our sincere appreciation to the noted internship providers.


Land O’Lakes, Inc. 


SPS Commerce 

2018-2019 Program Sponsors & Partners

We are especially grateful to our financial sponsors who provide funding for year-round Aspirations and SPARCS programming for award honorees, as well as, hundreds of young women from Minnesota secondary schools.

Target, Land O’Lakes, Maverick Software, SPS Commerce, Upper Midwest Security Alliance, Anita Borg-Minneapolis Chapter, Code42, Digital, College of St. Scholastica, Cray, General Mills, HelpSystems, Information Systems Security Association, Legacy Armour, Merrill Corporation, Microsoft, Minnesota Computers for Schools, Minnesota State-IT Center of Excellence, Minnesota Twins, Nerdery, Prime Therapeutics, STEM Fuse, Stoneridge Software, Twin Cities Chapter of Women in Computing, Thomson Reuters, Unisys, Veritas Technologies.