Announcing the 2020 Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards Honorees
he Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards (MNAiC) program is proud to announce the 2020 class of honorees. 133 awardees from high schools throughout Minnesota were selected by national and state review teams; 37 students were selected as Rising Star honorees, 53 as Certificate of Distinction honorees, and 43 as top-level state and/or national honorees. Three distinctive virtual ceremonies are occurring in May and June to recognize the technology talents and interests of these accomplished young women. Family, friends, teachers, and local business partners and sponsors will come together to support and celebrate these student’s incredible technology achievements.
As determined by the award level that is bestowed, awardees are featured in the local and statewide media, are eligible for a range of Minnesota prizes including job shadow experiences, paid summer internship opportunities, cash rewards, swag, and trophies. Honorees also receive access to exclusive resources from the National Center of Women and Information Technology (NCWIT).
The ceremonies will also recognize Minnesota’s 2020 Aspirations Educator Honorable Mention recipient, Amanda Mackereth, Spectrum High School in Elk River, and Minnesota Aspirations Educator of the Year, John Bartucz, CTECH High School in Rochester. 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 await them!
Meet the Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards Honorees
2020 Minnesota Winners
Sophomore at South High School, Minneapolis
Senior at Maple Grove Senior High School
Sahana is a National Honorable Mention recipient. She was also a State Winner in 2019. 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, Drive Coach, and a programming veteran on her school’s FIRST Robotics team: Crimson Robotics. 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 Tech Challenge teams throughout North and South America. In addition to robotics, Sahana is a Girl Scout Ambassador who has earned Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards. In 2019, 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 100+ students in its first year. Sahana is currently working to expand the program throughout her greater community. She is a 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition Dean’s List Finalist, President of her school’s Girl Up chapter, and a 2020 Girl Scout River Valleys Young Woman of Distinction. She plans to pursue Computer Science at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering this coming fall.
Junior at South High School, Minneapolis
Sarah is a State Winner and National Honorable Mention recipient. She was also a 2019 Minnesota Rising Star. Sarah is the president of an all-girls technology club and community service officer on the student council at her high school. She enjoys participating in community events and HYPE Council, a program that allows her to impact youth in the community. Sarah volunteers at her local Best Buy Teen Tech Center and teaches Girls Who Code classes to elementary students. She plans to major in Computer Science and Business as well as minor in Cyber Security. After college, Sarah aspires to build a tech startup that supports schools with teaching technology to students, especially to girls and girls of color. Her goal is to challenge herself and always seek out new experiences while making an impact.
Junior at Annandale High School
Audrey is a State Winner and National Honorable Mention recipient. Audrey’s interest in computer science began in Freshman year when she joined her school’s FIRST robotics team, which she has now been a participant for three years. She began to truly discover the extent of computer science this summer at a Machine Learning Camp at the University of Minnesota. She was able to create a program that predicts a person’s likelihood to have survived on the Titanic as well as a program that recognized and generated handwritten digits from the MNIST dataset. Her passions lie in computer science, mathematics, and band. This year she joined a research project involving operator algebra relating to matrices with hopes to be published by the end of the summer. As of now, Audrey is in her second semester of computer science classes at the University of Minnesota with the intent to complete another year before she graduates. Audrey hopes to pursue a degree in computer science focused on artificial intelligence with a minor in neuroscience.
Sophomore at DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis
Kate is a State Winner and National Honorable Mention recipient. She is a founding member of her middle school’s all-female robotics team where she coded the autonomous and driver-controlled programs. Kate became interested in technology at a young age and has continued to learn to drive her passion. She enrolled in an online Python class to prepare herself for a computer science class which led her to participate in various summer camps including Kode With Klossy and Python Camp at U of M. Kate is still trying to decide on what her focus will be but she does know that she wants to continue to learn computer science principles specifically related to game design. The concept of working with others to create a game that mixes art and science is very intriguing to her. She plans on going to a four-year college with a major in computer science with a passion for challenging sexism and misogyny projected towards women in online gaming.
Senior at South High School, Minneapolis
Claire Jensen is a State Winner and National Honorable Mention recipient. She was also a State Honorable Mention recipient in 2018. She is a founding member of Sisters-n-Technology, an after school coding club for girls. Since its beginning, members have built a club website, designed and built an animatronic display, hosted a game design competition, and much more. Claire also co-founded a Black Student Union (BSU) at her school, giving a voice to the students and creating a safe space for people of color. Since its launch in October 2019, the BSU has led protests and sit-ins, discussions about equality and involvement, and hosted speakers. Claire is also involved in Girls Inc. Eureka! -a five-year STEM program for girls, through which she has received internships at Amazon and Toole Design Group, participated in panel discussions and spoken about women in STEM. She also participated in Harvey Mudd College’s Women in STEM program, doing intensive coursework, and learning about STEM careers and figures. She is the Vice President of her senior class as well as her school’s National Honors Society, where she works towards building a tighter and more inclusive school community. Claire is involved in sports, including co-captain of the varsity soccer team during her junior year, playing ultimate frisbee, and teaching snowboarding. She will attend college for a major in computer science next year and plans to pursue technology in the fields of cybersecurity and ethical hacking while traveling around the country in a van.
Junior at Roseville Area High School
Abigail is a State Winner and National Honorable Mention recipient. She challenges herself academically by taking AP courses, including AP Computer Science, as well as furthering her technical knowledge by taking elective classes in CAD drafting, small engines, woodshop, and auto-shop. She is involved with a variety of coding and technology extra-curricular programs, including Technovation[MN] and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). She is her FRC team’s first female Programming Captain, where she leads a team of 12 students responsible for coding the robot’s drive, sensing, vision, and autonomous functions; she shares this knowledge by mentoring area FIRST LEGO League teams. Her Technovation[MN] team competes in the Technovation-Girls app design competition and the Amazon Alexa Skills Challenge. In both 2018 and 2019, her Technovation[MN] team received awards for their Alexa Skill projects, and their 2018 skill is available on the Amazon Skills Store. This past summer, Abigail helped organize and run a week-long app coding class for grade school students. In addition to coding, Abigail also participates in Future Problem Solvers, is a co-captain on her JV Tennis team, and plays Lacrosse for the School’s JV squad. Abigail’s technology interests also include aerospace and aeronautics. As a sophomore, Abigail became one of the youngest people in the US to pass the FAA-part 107 and obtained her commercial drone license. She hopes to begin training for her pilot license this summer. Last summer, she attended a camp at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott AZ focused on programming unmanned aerial vehicles. In college, she plans to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering.
Senior at Wayzata High School
Katie is a State Winner and National Honorable Mention recipient. Additionally, she was honored as a State Honorable Mention recipient in 2019. Katie discovered a strong interest in technology after building a toy robot as a child. As a freshman, Kate began coding in C++ and has continued to branch out and learn more languages, such as Java, Python, and HTML, through AP Computer Science classes. Outside of school, Katie participates in Business Professionals of America and was a state finalist for Java Programming last year. Katie is also actively involved in Science Olympiad, where she competes in chemistry, physics, and inquiry events. She is a captain and event leader for her school’s Science Olympiad team, as well as a Link Leader for freshmen at her high school. In her free time, Katie often volunteers by teaching elementary and middle school students or tutoring her peers in STEM. Next year, she plans on studying engineering or computer science in college.
Sophomore at Blaine High School
Aliyah is State Winner and National Honorable Mention recipient. Since her childhood, she’s always wanted to help people. While the ideas on how have varied over the years, it’s always coming from the same place: her heart. Aliyah’s passions include speech competitions, volunteering, and learning to code. She’s involved in many clubs at her school including Student Council, French, Speech, Muslim Student Association, and Black Students Union. As one of the few black students in the Center for Engineering, Math, and Science (CEMS) program, Aliyah uses this opportunity to stand out and create exceptional work. Her hard work is motivated by her travels. Spending the past summer in her home country of Somalia continues to motivate Aliyah as she begins the journey to become a future Biomedical Engineer. She dreams of improving the lives of her people back home through more humane living conditions. Aliyah sees her education as an opportunity to help the world become a better place. She is setting her sights high as she looks to the future, from finishing high school, to college and beyond.
Junior at Convent of The Visitation School, Mendota Heights
Meg is a State Winner and National Honorable Mention recipient. She has also received the Target TWIST EPIC Award. Meg is a programmer for her all-girls FIRST Robotics Team 2177, the Robettes. In last two years, the Robettes have earned the Chairman’s Award and Engineering Inspire Award and gone on to compete at the FIRST World Championships. Meg’s passion for science and technology has bloomed through designing, building and programming in FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition. Meg has built her coding skills by attending camps, exploring cybersecurity, developing mobile apps, and collaborating
on web-based applications. She enjoys participating in outreach activities where she can share her experiences with younger students and learn from science and technology professionals. Meg values giving back to the organizations that have encouraged her to explore and experiment. She volunteers with High Tech Kids at tournaments as a First Lego League Core Values judge. In addition, she plans and leads events for young girls to participate in hands-on STEM learning. Recently, Meg combined her passions for STEM and Girl Scouting by establishing and teaching curriculum for Girl Scouts to earn their STEM badges. She continues to share her programming knowledge by teaching at Code Ninjas, where she leads the weekly Girls in STEM camp, as well as helping young students learn to code and build their own gaming applications. In the future, Meg looks forward to developing her skills and pursuing a career in technology and engineering in order to solve interesting, real-world problems.
Junior at Burnsville High School
Alexis is a State Winner. She was also a 2019 Minnesota Rising Star. Alexis says being the only girl on Burnsville High School’s tackle football team has taught her to be a trailblazer in her computer science classes. She holds leadership positions in the National Honors Society, Student Council, Youth Service Council, and participates in Technovations, Link-Crew, STEM club, Math League and BurnsvilleStrong. Alexis competed through the American Heart Association to bring virtual reality to her school. She has won many awards including the Presidential Civil Service Award for volunteering, American Psychological Award for her project on teen Snapchat addiction, and the Target TWIST Epic award. Alexis has learned many coding languages and enjoys graphic design with Adobe Suite. She created an app for mental health awareness with her twin brother. She organizes her school’s Family Code Nights and works at CodeNinjas because she knows the value in educating her community’s youth about STEM. Alexis is grateful for the many opportunities that computer science has brought her and looks forward to continuing her journey into higher education.
Senior at Kennedy High School, Bloomington
Jeanne Chan is a State Winner. She has been interested in technology from an early age. During middle school, she learned Python while participating in her school’s Coding Club. From that first experience with Python, Jeanne has continued her education by learning other programming languages like C/C++ and Java through coursework and other projects. Currently, she is learning Swift in collaboration with Bloomington Public Schools. Jeanne’s high school career has continuously revolved around STEM. She was involved with the Dimensions Academy program, and more recently, she has been at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities as a full-time student through Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO). Recently, Jeanne has contributed to e-NABLE, an organization working to 3D-print prosthetic hands for unique cases. During her free time, she is a volunteer at Oxboro Library tutoring under-represented, low-income students. In addition to volunteering, she is the communications leader in her National Honor Society chapter and a board member for Youth 4 Youth, a group focused on raising attention towards youth homelessness. Outside of computing, Jeanne has an interest in neuroscience and has attended the Minnesota Neuromodulation Symposium. She hopes to later find an intersect in computer science and neuroscience in her undergraduate work. As a first-generation college student, Jeanne plans on continuing her education at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities as a computer science major with a minor in neuroscience.
Junior at East Ridge High School, Woodbury
Anita is a State Winner. She was also a 2019 State Honorable Mention recipient. Her love for robotics stemmed from her introduction to FIRST Lego League (FLL) in fifth grade. In middle school, Anita became the lead programmer for her FLL team and developed her programming skills by learning Java. In ninth grade, she founded the FIRST Tech Challenge team, RPM Robotics. She is one of the captains for the team and will attend the 2020 FIRST World Championships in April. Anita was recognized as a 2019 FIRST Dean’s List Finalist for her leadership, outreach, and passion for her work in the STEM community. In 2019, she won the Target TWIST EPIC award for her achievements in STEM. As a musician, Anita is an enthusiastic advocate for STEAM programs and plans to build stronger connections between STEM and the arts by developing STEAM classes with her FTC team that incorporates robotics elements in the students’ artwork. Her four years in FIRST programs as the only girl on her team has motivated her to involve more women in STEM. She has been instrumental in increasing her school’s gender diversity in STEM by reaching out to women professionals and gaining ideas to encourage girls to participate in STEM activities. As a senior, Anita will be a youth mentor for FLL and FTC teams in her community. After high school, Anita aims to major in neuroscience and continue to foster her love for both engineering and space by minoring in space science and engineering.
Senior at Eden Prairie High School
Mina is a State Winner. Her interest in coding was sparked as a freshman when she enrolled in her high school’s first Advanced. Placement Computer Science Principles course. Through this class, she got the chance to work with an all-female team of coders in
order to create an app concept for the Verizon App Challenge, where their concept, GovBuddy, won Best in State. Since then, Mina has continued pursuing her passion for coding by taking classes at the University of Minnesota as a PSEO student, where she collaborates with other college students through coding labs and lectures. She believes in the importance of inspiring potential computer scientists at a young age, and as such, she spends time teaching kids fundamental programming concepts as a Sensei at Code Ninjas. She has also participated in CodePath’s Mobile App Design workshop series, where she learned the basics of iOS app development under the guidance of tech professionals from Silicon Valley. In addition to her interests in computer science, Mina is a flutist and piccolo player in her high school’s Wind Ensemble, as well as a leader of her school’s Flute Choir. In college, Mina plans on majoring in computer science with a concentration in computational linguistics. She hopes to study artificial intelligence and natural language processing in order to break down barriers in communication, both lingual and physical. Above all, Mina hopes to utilize technology in order to have a positive impact on human interactions and society.
Junior at Waseca Senior High School
Sara is a State Winner. She was also a 2019 National Certificate of Distinction recipient. She is an active member of the Science Olympiad, the Programming Club, and the Business Professionals of America. Sara is a self-taught programmer. She is the leader of the High School Programming Club and is the founder and instructor of two programming clubs for elementary students. As a seventh-grader, Sara was able to join the HS Programming Club, HS Science Olympiad, and HS Math Team. By her freshman year, she was on the varsity team in both Science Olympiad and Math Team, was a group leader in Programming Club, and the main programmer in her Robotics Club team. In her sophomore year, Sara became the high school Programming Club leader. She also placed at BPA Regionals competition in Fundamentals of Web Design and was a State Finalist, moving on to Nationals. In her junior year, she founded and is teaching two programming clubs at local primary and intermediate schools. Sara’s greatest accomplishment is placing three years in a row at the SDSU Programming Design Competition. In her free time, Sara enjoys playing clarinet, taking dance classes, drawing, making animations, and taking online college science courses. She is fluent in Polish, Finnish, English, and German, and is learning Spanish. Sara is planning to attend college and major in biochemistry, and she hopes to one day work as a scientist in the field of medical research.
Junior at Eastview High School, Apple Valley
Akshara is a State Winner. She was selected as the 2020 Excellence in Community, Education, and Leadership (ExCEL) Award female nominee for her school. In addition, Akshara is taking several AP classes and received the AP Scholar with Honors Award in her sophomore year. Since creating a healthcare app in 8th grade, she has been very interested in technology and its applications. Last summer, she shadowed researchers at the University of Minnesota, which has inspired her to pursue medicine. She is a member of her school’s National Honor Society, a Student Council Officer, and an editor on the school newspaper. She is also Vice President of her school’s French Club. As a member of her school’s speech and debate teams, she has won many awards. Akshara plays the trombone in her school band and performed in the University of Minnesota Honor Band. At school, Akshara founded The Pursuit of Happiness, a club that provides students with skills to manage school and personal life stress. She created a website to make the club’s lessons accessible to people online. Outside of school, Akshara is involved in her community, volunteering over 600 service hours to date as a volunteer at Fairview Ridges Hospital and the Minnesota Zoo. In college, Akshara plans to study medicine and conduct extensive medical research centered around cancer. She hopes to leverage technology in the medical field to provide better healthcare as a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Senior at Math and Science Academy, Woodbury
Breanne is a State Winner. She plans to attend the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) College of Science and Engineering, majoring in computer science and potentially pursuing a master’s degree in data science. Ultimately, she wants to work for a large company as a cybersecurity specialist. She first gained exposure to her dream field in computer science when she attended the University of Minnesota Summer Computing Academy and Discover STEM programs. She was the only female student on the coding sub-team in FIRST Robotics, which has inspired her to encourage other female students to pursue their interests in STEM. Through her volunteer experience with Respite Care – a program that helps students with mental disabilities- she has fostered a passion for developing empowering, innovative technology. She also volunteers through the National Honor Society. She loves to code and has learned numerous coding languages, like Java, HTML, CSS, through several online resources. At her high school, she is the Vice President of Earth Club and the co-coordinator of Academic Triathlon. Outside of school and extracurricular activities, she likes to read and spend her time with her family and friends.
Junior at Highland Park Senior High, St. Paul
Anindita is a State Winner. She was also a 2019 State Honorable Mention recipient. She is interested in Cybersecurity as well as the intersection of Computer Science and Health. She received the Gold Medal and the Graduate Women in Science Award at the Minnesota State Science Fair for research she conducted regarding fall detection with wearable sensors. Anindita is also a recipient of the 2019 TWIST EPIC Award. In addition to her research, she is the editor-in-chief of her school’s science journal, “The Nucleus,” and a member of Math Team and Science Club. Anindita enjoys volunteering at Regions Hospital and her nearby Teen Tech Center. She also enjoys participating in the Student Engagement and Advancement Board, which works with the Board of Education of Saint Paul Public Schools to amplify student voices and create meaningful change. In her free time, Anindita likes to dance and act. This year, she is focusing on community outreach for girls in STEM. In the future, she plans to study Computer Science in college and pursue a career in the field.
Senior at Edina High School
Sofie is a State Winner. She was also a 2019 National Certificate of Distinction recipient. Sofie is a dually-enrolled student at Normandale, taking classes in Java and C Programming in addition to her high school courses, such as AP Computer Science Principles. Last summer, Sofie embarked on a STEM trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos where she supported scientists on Operation Wallace in calculating CO₂ content in Sani Isla community land. To Sofie, collecting data in remote parts of the Amazon rainforest was insightful and meaningful, as this work has the potential to offset carbon emissions. Sofie’s interest in STEM started after taking an HTML class at CoderDojo. Since then, she has participated in Technovation, creating a volunteering app that won Best Pitch, as well as in ID Tech Camps at Stanford University studying Java and Cyber Security. In her free time, Sofie volunteers at Hour of Code and at where it all started, CoderDojo. Sofie is also a 2019 Target TWIST EPIC Awardee. In addition to her success in the field, Sofie is fluent in French, which has encouraged her to study Computer Science in London next year.
Senior at Edina High School
Amy is a State Winner. She decided to learn to code after participating in FIRST Tech Challenge and becoming inspired by how her teammates used Java to pilot their robots. Determined to make a positive impact on the world, Amy joined her local chapter of Girls Who Code, where she learned Python. While building apps in her AP Computer Science Principles class, she gained an overview of both computing and its societal impacts. Amy has continued to pursue her passion in computer science through an intensive two-week programming camp at the University of Minnesota. This camp piqued her interest in applications of computer science in breakthrough fields such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and big data analysis. She has participated in other programs and classes at school in order to further her understanding of machine learning and cybersecurity and to learn Java. Combining her interests in real-world application of machine learning and medicine, Amy has worked to analyze medical data to predict re-admittance in diabetes patients. She hopes to continue combining her interests in the future to find patterns within patient and genetic data to improve approaches toward treatment. Currently, Amy leads a Girls Who Code club at her local middle school, which she decided to restart after her personal, transformative experience with the club.
Senior at Central High School, St. Paul
Afiya is a State Winner. She was also a State Honorable Mention recipient in 2019 and National Certificate of Distinction recipient in 2018. Growing up with both 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 Bits to Bites, a high school team in the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center, working on innovative ways to solve issues around food justice using technology. With Bits to Bites, Afiya has developed and facilitated workshops with youth and community members, in addition to presenting her work at conferences around the state. During the last school year, Afiya worked tirelessly with ARTS – Us to found and launch a program called the Youth Leadership Program of Camp Teranga, which focuses on providing girls and youth of color with opportunities to explore their interests in and around STEM, as well as providing advanced arts experiences and leadership opportunities. This program received statewide attention and was featured by the Twin Cities Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). This past summer, the program came to life with sixteen youth participants from the Twin Cities. Afiya is truly passionate about this work and looks forward to continuing to develop this program. In her free time, Afiya volunteers in her community through political campaigns, tutoring, and upkeeping a community garden, and she has played varsity basketball since her freshman year.
Junior at Wayzata High School
Salma is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Her interest in STEM began when she competed in an engineering fair in fifth grade; in every year since she has attended the iD Tech Summer School at Macalester, exploring topics in science and mathematics. When Salma was young, her grandmother was diagnosed with skin cancer. Since then, Salma has been passionate about helping prevent similar illnesses and has deeply involved herself in volunteering at different medical institutions specifically related to dermatology and geriatrics. When Salma began her first coding class in high school, she was fascinated by the power of programming. She soon realized how she could integrate her interests in the medical and technology fields through biological engineering and has made it her passion to create and program a device for elderly and disable people to efficiently detect early-stage skin diseases. When Salma is not exploring her STEM interests, she is an avid leader in her community. She is the secretary of Amnesty International at her school, a human rights club. She also co-founded and is President of the Muslim Student Association at her high school, and participates in the National Honor Society. In addition, since receiving her black belt, she helps lead Taekwondo classes. In the future, Salma plans to follow a career in biological engineering to pursue her dreams.
Junior at Wayzata High School
Anushree is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Her interest in Computers and Robotics sparked when she joined her First Lego League team in Middle School, where she worked on discovering solutions to problems such as Trash Pollution and Animal Security. Since then she’s continued to develop her coding skills by joining after-school coding clubs, and learning languages such as C++, Scratch, and Python. She progressed to coach at Stem Builders where she trained her own Junior First Lego League team. A Robotics teacher since 2018, Anushree aspires to inspire young girls to pursue their STEM interests. She is a member of the National Honor Society and participates in Business Professionals of America and Mock Trial after school. Besides her personal interest in coding, blogging, and reading books, Anushree plans to pursue a career in Computer Science or Computer Engineering.
Freshman at Maple Grove Senior High School
Stavya is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She is a Math and Science enthusiast with a developing passion for Robotics. Her interest in Math started early when she regularly won Math Masters and Continental Math League (CML) competitions in elementary school. She then got accepted to the University of Minnesota’s Talented Youth Math Program (UMTYMP) in 6th grade and completed all High School Math in 7th grade. She placed in the top 5 percentile in the American Mathematics Contest AMC10 test in 8th grade. Now a freshman in High School, Stavya is working on Calculus 2 and will complete all college-level Math courses next year. She’s part of her school’s FIRST Robotics program, where she actively works in the Mechanical department. She’s also exploring different fields in STEM through Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA). She enjoys competing and participating in regional meets with her school’s Math Team which placed first in the Twin Cities Suburban West Division. Stavya also enjoys playing guitar, skiing, and can spend hours exploring new programming languages and concepts!
Senior at Apple Valley High School
Sosna is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She is a STEM enthusiast with a passion for Robotics and is part of the First Tech Challenge all-female team “Iron Maidens”. Participating in Robotics has exposed her to skills such as programming in Java and using CAD for designing complex robotic systems. Sosna’s passion has inspired her to join Genesys Works to become an intern at Blue Cross Blue Shield. In this program, she received intensive training on technical, professional, and soft skills for eight weeks. Currently working in the Desktop Support Team, Sosna’s further developing her professional IT skills. At school, she’s involved in a wide variety of activities and student clubs such as Math Team, Science Olympiad, Varsity Soccer, and Student Council. Sosna seeks to promote STEM and Robotics for children through outreach initiatives such as Grit to Great, the Young Women in STEM Summit, and Girls Scouts Robotics Badge Day. She is currently accepted to Augsburg where she intends to incorporate her experience and knowledge in IT and Computer Science to pursue a career in Software Engineering.
Sophomore at Maple Grove Senior High School
enjoys mentoring FLL teams and several Girl Scout troops at other community outreach events.
Senior at Eastview High School, Apple Valley
Ruchitha is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Her love for STEM first sparked when she volunteered at the Fairview Ridges Hospital in her Freshman year. Inspired by how medical devices aid doctors in helping patients, Ruchitha aims to make such technology more efficient. Having learned HTML and AP Computer Science Principles, she is currently learning Java and exploring CAD software for three-dimensional printing. Ruchitha strives to share her knowledge and encourages females to pursue careers in the STEM field. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Speech & Debate, and Student Council officer at her school. In addition to competing in prepared speech competitions for Business Professionals of America, Ruchitha is also the Vice President of the French Club. With her passion for community service and a degree in Computer Science, she hopes to expand her computing skills and, in the future, invent new applications and devices that can improve lives.
Maria Paula Cadena Amortegui
Senior at Osseo Senior High School
Maria Paula is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Excellent at Math and ever curious about how things work, her interest in Robotics and Engineering started in middle school after taking home a 3-D die that she designed on Autodesk. Since then Maria Paula has joined her school’s Robotics and Math team and taken many classes offered by her school’s Project Lead the Way program such as Principles of Engineering and Computer Science Engineering. Currently the captain of her school’s all-girls Robotics group and the Math team, she loves to apply her learnings to her VEX robot. She enjoys working collaboratively with others to build robots and solve problems. In the future, Maria Paula would like to further her education in STEM to prepare to become a successful engineer.
Senior at Como Park Senior High School, St. Paul
Chiamaka is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She first fell in love with technology in her 7th-grade Computer Programming class. In the summer of 2019, she interned at Optum Technology, where her passion for technology grew further after coding for and testing a self-driving car. Chiamaka founded the first Futurist Academy group in her school, a club whose mission is to create interest about technology in youth. She hopes with this club she can help others find the same passion for technology. When she’s not planning activities for her club, Chiamaka tackles a load of AP and college classes, volunteers for the technical crew in her church, plans events for Student Council, and practices music for her choir or band groups. She plans to double major in Psychology and Computer Science and minor in Linguistics on a Pre-medicine track. She then plans to attend Med school and become a Psychiatrist. Chiamaka is an enthusiastic learner who enjoys spending her free time reading and writing poetry.
Senior at Jefferson High School, Bloomington
Jillayne is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She is also a National Merit Finalist and AP Scholar with Distinction. Jillayne has been taking college Math and Computer Science courses such as Physics, Discrete Structures of Computer Science, and Applied Differential Equations since 8th grade and is now a full-time PSEO student at the University of Minnesota. All geared to attend college next year, majoring in Applied Math and minoring in Computer Science and Linguistics, she aspires to pursue research in computational linguistics. Fascinated by languages and their complexities, Jillayne desires to use Math and Computer Science to improve language translation systems and natural language processing. Outside of school, Jillayne runs a profitable Lawn Mowing business with 120 customers and 11 student employees and loves to tutor kids in Math and Computer Science. She also enjoys dancing on aerial silks, singing in the Angelica Cantanti Treble choir, and spending time with her family.
Junior at Open World Learning Community, St. Paul
Freya is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Her interest in programming began in fourth grade, when she discovered the ‘Inspect’ browser tool to change the color of the text on her school’s website. Passionate about finding the intersections between programming and environmental justice, she is one of the founding members of her school’s Environmental Activism Committee. She recently created an app that helps volunteers for the Department of Natural Resources track movements of loons. Freya also worked with a Technovation team to develop an app that assists Ramsey county residents to reduce the impact of yard waste on the Mississippi River. She has a clear vision to pursue a career as an Environmental Activist and Engineer with a goal to lessen the impact of climate change on marginalized groups. Outside of Engineering, she loves to volunteer as an assistant wilderness guide, leading groups through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. In addition to being a columnist for her school newspaper, Freya is also a member of the Varsity Swim and Ultimate Frisbee teams.
Senior at Minnetonka High School
Olivia is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was first introduced to STEM in the fourth grade through the FIRST LEGO League program. This experience led her to participate in Robotics classes throughout Middle school, beginners coding classes, and eventually AP Computer Science in High school. She is a strong supporter of other girls pursuing STEM. In addition to being on the student advisory board for the research program at Minnetonka, Olivia is also involved in the Women in Stem club and is a First Mate (senior leader) at Minnetonka High School. She has also become a state competitor and international qualifier for Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), a business competition. Olivia is currently in the midst of running a two-year research study on ‘Injuries in Female Athletes’. As part of the study, she’s utilized an online survey to instantaneously collect data from 40 soccer players every day over the course of the season. She used Excel and SPSS, an IBM statistics platform, to analyze data, find trends, and create graphs to present her research at local and State Science fairs. Olivia has also conducted research for local companies and has created numerous presentations, infographics, and academic papers using Microsoft and Google platforms.
Senior at School of Environmental Studies, Apple Valley
Lisa is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was also a 2019 National Certificate of Distinction recipient. She has been to the FIRST World Championship in Detroit multiple times and was a Dean’s List Semi-Finalist. Lisa first developed an interest in STEM when she joined her school’s FIRST Tech Challenge team (FTC) during sophomore year. That experience led her to realize her aptitude at skills such as programming, and designing with Computer-Aided Design (CAD). She contributed more than 100 hours of outreach on the team. Now the lead CAD designer for her team, Lisa works with three different design software and creates parts and manufacturing drawings for the team. Alongside her FTC team, Lisa has also been part of a team on FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) where she engaged herself in learning about the business structure of the team and understanding the structural integrity of electronics on the robot. Coming from a rural area herself, Lisa has experienced the lack of opportunities in STEM education in such places. She is a strong advocate for girls in STEM and is committed to helping younger students from rural parts to have the opportunity of STEM education and activities. While she is still undecided on her major, Lisa is most interested in electrical and manufacturing engineering.
Senior at Jefferson High School, Bloomington
Renee is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She first started developing an interest in computer science when she joined the FIRST Robotics Team, Team Bjorg, at her high school. She started out in the electrical subteam of the Controls System team. She learned how to wire the robot and handled most of the wiring for the robot, including crimping heads onto wires, soldering wires together, and organizing the wires on the base. As last year’s season went on, Renee developed an interest in the programming side of robotics. Currently, she’s been learning and using Java to program robots. She is the captain of the Controls System and Programming team for Team Bjorg. Their team won the Entrepreneurship Award at the 10,000 Lakes regional competition. In addition, as a PSEO student accepted to the University of
Minnesota, Renee has taken college classes that taught programming concepts and programming languages such as Python and C. At the University of Minnesota, she also took advanced mathematics classes such as Multivariable Calculus. In pursuit of a better understanding of computer science, Renee went to the Summer Computer Science Institute at Carleton College in 2018. At the camp, she researched how parallel and distributed computing can make a fractal image rendering faster. Her research showed that parallel computing does make the image rendering faster. Renee will go to the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities to study computer science after graduating high school.
Junior at Breck School, Golden Valley
Sahana is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Her academic interests include STEM, economics, healthcare, and social impact. Sahana took her first computer science class in 9th grade, where she learned to program in Python. She then took part in a school community partnership with Sisters N’ Technology her sophomore year, and now tutors first and second graders in basic programming skills. In the last two years, she has conducted applied computer science projects. She co-created an algorithm for general practitioners and OBGYNs to better construct screening plans for women with breast cancer and conducted a project centered around child pedestrian safety on Halloween night using Python. This past summer, she worked at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Pharmacy researching targeted drug delivery, a therapy that utilizes Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) and nanoparticles. Outside of her academic interests, Sahana is an avid cellist in the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, performs Indian Classical Dance, and is a project steward for ASHA for Education, an international non-profit. She also leads the Breck Business Club and Future Business Leaders of America chapter. Additionally, Sahana is an elected member of the Student Advocacy Council and a member of the Student Integrity Council at Breck School. She plans to pursue an interdisciplinary career that combines her interests in business and STEM.
Junior at Winona Senior High School
Nicole is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was also a 2019 Minnesota Rising Star. Nicole has been interested in technology and computers from a young age. In middle school, she participated in Media Club, where she worked on different projects such
as creating basic video games. In high school, Nicole has taken several computer-related classes. She took an independent study class called Intro to Programming and a Video Production class. She has been a part of her school’s tech team called TechNest since 9th grade. This year she was promoted to a TechNest leader. In TechNest she helps students and teachers with technical issues, ranging from SmartBoards not working to Chromebooks not charging. She is also the lead video producer for the team. Nicole has also been able to help inspire younger girls to pursue their interests in technology by going to elementary schools and demonstrating how to fly drones. Additionally, Nicole has had the opportunity to attend several coding camps over the summer. She was able to learn the basics of Python at the University of Minnesota and how to code apps with Java at Stanford University. Nicole is a member of the National Honor Society and participates in mountain biking as well as track and field. She plans to go to college for computer science or software engineering, with a minor in math and data analysis.
Sophomore at DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis
Sophia is a State Honorable Mention recipient. When not on the court for DeLaSalle’s basketball team or in the courtroom for mock trial, Sophia is focused on her passion for computer science. Her love for STEM classes pushed her to take AP Computer Science A, getting to know Java this semester. For the past two summers, Sophia was a TA at the University of Minnesota for its Summer Computing Academy, an all-girls program that encourages young women to enjoy STEM. There she helps high school students and incoming college freshmen interact with the many sides of computer science through Python programming. The academy also incorporates data systems, AI learning, robot research, and development. Sophia additionally integrates computer science into her daily life by thinking of ways to solve local problems through future apps and hopes to create them in the near future. Sophia is intrigued by cybersecurity and data analysis. She hopes to continue her journey of teaching young girls the gift of coding throughout her high school years. There are plenty of programming languages for Sophia to dabble in, and she cannot wait to study them all. Sophia plans to pursue computer science in college and use her knowledge to change the computing world through a career in cybersecurity.
Junior at Roseville Area High School
Sophia Alexandra is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was also a 2019 Minnesota Rising Star. She first got into computer science through building and programming robots for her FIRST Lego League team in middle school. Her knowledge and love of technology continues to grow with the help of computer science classes and robotics competitions. Alexandra is most proud of her involvement on her school’s FIRST Robotics Competition team, the FireBears. She has been on the team for three years and is currently the CAD Captain and Junior Captain of the team. She uses CAD software to design parts her team needs on their robot and helps make important decisions. Not only does she enjoy working with technology, she also shares her love and passion for STEM through advocating and outreach. In June 2019, Alexandra went to Washington, D.C., to advocate for STEM education and funding. She also works with her robotics team to bring robots to elementary schools and inspire young children. This year is also Alexandra’s third year on her school’s Technovation team. So far, they have created two mobile apps and two Alexa Skills. In addition, Alexandra is an active member of her school’s Girls in STEM club. They meet once a week to learn about STEM careers and talk about what it means to be a woman in a STEM career. In the future, she plans to attend college for a degree in cybersecurity or computer science.
Sophomore at Southwest High School, Minneapolis
Georgia is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was also a 2019 Minnesota Rising Star. Her interest in technology began in second grade when she developed games through Scratch using block code and built maker kits using Arduino. Georgia joined an FLL robotics team for four years where she learned to code with LEGO Mindstorms. Her interest in robotics continued when she joined an FTC team for 2 years, gaining skills as the lead robot designer and engineer for her team, developing skills in CAD. This year, as a sophomore, Georgia joined the Southwest High School FRC robotics team, Ultraviolet, where she is on the CAD, build, and programming teams. She has learned to program in Java and has expanded her knowledge in CAD. Georgia was also involved in Girls Who Code in 7th and 8th grade where she learned Python and HTML for app development. She is currently developing a curriculum, sisSTEM, to engage 3rd and 4th grade girls by using the engineering design process, connecting them with STEM resources and opportunities, and encouraging them to participate in available STEM programs. Georgia enjoys rowing and has been a coxswain for two years with the Minneapolis Rowing Club junior team. In the future, she plans to become a geoengineer and is currently writing a research paper on climate change mitigation for her IB personal project. Georgia’s interests in computer programming, machine learning, and artificial intelligence will be essential for her as she pursues her passion for engineering in the future.
Senior at Minnetonka High School
Maya is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She holds a true passion for problem-solving and has always felt inspired by strong women in the STEM fields. Whether it be co-founding her high school’s first hackathon or participating in Women in STEM activities, Maya strongly believes in sparking STEM interest in those around her. Recently, Maya has developed a zeal for
data science and machine learning. Her interest began when she enrolled in her school’s AP Computer Science A course and learned Java. With a newfound interest in coding, she participated in the <run>:\the\world 2019 Machine Learning Camp at the University of Minnesota. Learning about various machine learning algorithms was truly fascinating and inspired her to conduct research in data science. Maya is now enrolled in her school’s scientific research program and has the privilege of spending an hour each day to build her own neural network and recommendation model with a dataset of fashion images. She is grateful to have the opportunity of working with female STEM professionals from Slalom Consulting and thanks Minnetonka Schools for this incredible research opportunity. In addition to her STEM accomplishments, Maya earned a 3rd place trophy at the 2018 DECA international competition, serves as Vice President of National Honor Society, and coaches at her school’s Writing Center. She plans to study data science in college next year.
Junior at Lakeville North High School
Junior at Blaine High School
Sophomore at Hopkins High School
Dorothea is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Since her elementary years, she has loved math and science and has strived for excellence in both subjects. Her love for mathematics first began in second grade. Up until that point, Dorothea loathed math. However, when her mother used flashcards and worked with her every day until the point of comprehension, she learned
When she’s not engaging in STEM-related activities, she is balancing her time as a sophomore representative for student council, a helping hand to the local theater productions, an athlete, a musician, and a straight “A” student. Dorothea hopes to go to Stanford University and pursue a career that allows her to integrate her love for STEM and the social sciences.
The Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards Committee congratulates 90 young women selected as a Certificate of Distinction (CoD) or Rising Star Honoree.
53 were selected as CoD recipients. The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) selected these 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 37 Rising Star Honorees who demonstrated engagement in a mixture of technology education and leadership experiences, showing strong promise to be successful in pursuing a technology education and career path.
Teacher at CTECH High School, Rochester
John grew up in Toronto, Canada before attending Princeton University to study Computer Science. He worked in computational finance in New York and London, moved to Minnesota, earned his master’s degree in Computer Science and started a consulting company. After helping out at his daughter’s school, he decided to go back and get his master’s degree in Education. He currently teaches Computer Science and I.T. at Rochester public schools and Winona State University. John set up the Rochester Area Youth Tech Foundation to provide refurbished laptops and internet to students without access to technology at home. He started Girls Who Code clubs at every middle school in Rochester, a CoderDojo at the Boys And Girls Club, the Rochester Computer Club, and the Queen City Computer Club for female, LGBTQ, and non-binary students. He lives in Rochester with his wife and two daughters and still has to fix his mom’s computer when he goes home for Thanksgiving.
2019 Minnesota Educator Honorable Mention Award
Teacher at Spectrum High School, Elk River
Amanda Mackereth, “Mrs. Mack,” started in education 16 years ago as an English teacher. After a winding path, she found her “dream job” teaching digital technology and Computer Science classes at Spectrum Middle and High Schools in Elk River. Originally graduating from Concordia College-Moorhead, Amanda also earned her K-12 Reading License through St. Mary’s University and her Career & Technical Education (CTE) license through St. Cloud State University.
When hired at Spectrum in 2015, Amanda brought energy and passion for developing a dynamic, engaging technology program. Starting with early IT Exploration curriculum from Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence, Amanda spent several years developing new ways to ensure all students at Spectrum Middle and High Schools have the digital literacy and computer science skills required to be successful in any of their future endeavors. Amanda later joined the IT CoE team to redevelop/create coursework and train teachers to use the new, more robust, standards-aligned curriculum introducing students to IT careers. She presents at conferences including TIES/Impact Education and the MNCodes Summit and is active in her PLN on Twitter: @amandamackereth.
Amanda is very thankful to be supported in her teaching journey by her husband, daughter, administrators, colleagues, and other family & friends who make it possible for her to strive for excellence in improving technology education locally and beyond.
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.
Liv Anda Asplund
Dr. Michael Wulf
Kateyln Jo France
University of Minnesota – Duluth
Katelyn Jo France is a 2018 MNAiC alumna. She is currently pursuing a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.A. in German Studies at the University of Minnesota – Duluth and plans to continue her schooling to get her PharmD. She is the founder and CEO of Scientists Making Your Life Easier (SMYLE) LLC, a medical technology and mentorship-focused corporation that produces accessible life-saving medical equipment while also providing opportunities for networking and assistance for underserved students who are interested in pursuing STEM projects and careers.
GRAND PRIZE: Summer Internships
This is the eighth year the awards program has offered internships as a Grand Prize. This year we are delighted and grateful that Land O’Lakes, SPS Commerce, and Optum, are providing 7 honorees a summer paid internship, which will be performed remotely.
It is important to note that before the COVID-19 virus disrupted the social order, a total of 19 internships were being offered by 10 MNAiC sponsor companies. All have pledged to re-offer internships in 2021. They are:
- Best Buy
- Datasite (Merrill Corporation)
- Minnesota Twins
- Prime Therapeutics
- Thomson Reuters
2019-2020 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.
2019-20 program sponsors are:
Anita Borg, AVI, Best Buy, BDPA, Code42, Collective.ly Digital, Datasite (Merrill Corporation), General Mills, HelpSystems, Information Systems Security Association, Land O’Lakes, Microsoft, Minnesota High Tech Association – Women Leading in Technology, Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence, Minnesota STEM Partnership, Minnesota Twins, Optum, Prime Therapeutics, Securian, SPS Commerce, STEM Fuse, Stoneridge Software, Target, Thomson Reuters, ThreeBridge Solutions, Trimble, Twin Cities Chapter of the Association for Women in Computing