he 2017 Aspirations in Computing Awards ceremony, held on April 18, recognized 32 Minnesota high school young women for their technology related interests and achievements. Family, friends, teachers, and business sponsors gathered together to celebrate and support the growth and interests of Minnesota’s young women in tech.
Along with recognition, honorees were awarded prizes ranging from tech devices to job shadow experiences and summer paid internship opportunities. Photos from the event are available to view on Flickr.
The ceremony also recognized Minnesota’s 2017 Aspirations Educator of the Year Award recipient, Cindy Drahos, Burnsville High School, and Minnesota Educator Honorable Mention, Kaitie O’Bryan, Mounds View High School. Numerous other educators were in attendance to cheer on the students they endorsed.
On behalf of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), and the impressive array of sponsors and partners, Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence congratulates all the award recipients for their outstanding achievements. Your higher education and career path to exciting technology inspired opportunities, awaits you. Go for IT!
Meet the 2017 Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards Honorees
2017 Minnesota Winners
Sophomore at Wayzata High School, Maple Grove
Anika Ahluwalia is a State honorable mention. She has always had a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math. Since childhood, she has been interested in programming and building, having taught herself basic programming through Khan Academy. She has loved taking the Visual Basic Programming and AP Computer Science classes in her school. She placed in the Java, Visual Basic and Computer Security events at the Business Professionals of America Regionals competition this year and will be moving on to the State competition for the Java and Visual Basic events. At the Science Olympiad, she has won several medals in the “Game On” programming event and serves as its event leader for her high school. She is also a medalist in the Science Olympiad’s Towers, Hovercraft, and Optics events. She enjoys sharing her love of programming with others and has served as a volunteer for the “hour of code” at her school. During her freshman year, she was a member of the programming team for Wayzata’s Robotics Team. She enjoys playing tennis on the Wayzata’s girls varsity team and serves on the school’s student council. She looks forward to a career in the STEM field where she will be able to combine her love of programming with her passion for science and technology.
Senior at Kennedy High School, Bloomington
Kemilyn Bayer is a State honorable mention whose brothers have been a great influence on her hobbies and life goals. She has always loved the thrill of adventure in games since a young age. Because of her brothers, she has been introduced to the many wonders of computers and technology. In the eleventh grade, she took IT classes on HTML/CSS, A++, software, and hardware, which were all offered by her school through the Career and College Academy program. Kemilyn completed the classes easily, which opened doors to her dream of doing more with coding. Her passions are art and design, and she often uses programs such as Photoshop and Paint Tool Sai to create. In her spare time, Kemilyn creates videos and live streams her artwork process. She dreams of applying her artistic skills to the technology world, which is why she indulges in website design using HTML and CSS coding. Genesys Works offered her an opportunity to explore her interests in the IT field, placing her at Target Corporation. There, she works at Hi-Tech as a technical support engineer, where she meets with team members face-to-face to troubleshoot technical problems. Kemilyn plans to attend the University of Minnesota to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
Sophomore at Lakeville South High School, Lakeville
Zoe Berg is a State honorable mention and a 2016 Certificate of Distinction recipient. She started working with computers and robotics when she joined the Green Girls FLL team at the age of nine years. For three years, she was a lead robot builder and programmer using NXT Mindstorm. Over the past four years, she has been the lead CAD designer on her FTC robotics team, developing over twenty-five 3-D printed and laser-cut parts. In 2015, her designs contributed to her team winning the PTC Design award, which advanced them to the FTC World Championship. Last year, she was also the lead CAD designer on her FRC team. She taught herself Python and reinforced it by creating her own labs. Last summer, she interned at EAC Product Development Solutions where she learned advanced CAD, IoT, Arduino and C. Zoe is also seasoned in technologies such as Ubuntu, Python, HTML, RobotC, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. She is passionate about teaching others about STEM and has logged over 200 outreach events over the past seven years. She has used her CAD knowledge to teach many students at her school and students from other robotics teams. Her favorite way to volunteer is teaching girls with disabilities about STEM every month using custom curriculum developed by Zoe and her team. Partnering with robotics team FRC 2220, she met with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to expand the Robots without Borders program. Zoe plans to pursue a career in mechanical engineering and robotics while staying active in the FIRST Robotics community.
Senior at Breck School, Orono
Elena Berman is a State award winner and National honorable mention. During her high school years, she has demonstrated great determination to learn and employ her skills on important issues of Alzheimer’s disease and behavioral science. Elena’s passion for programming began when she first learned Java. In high school, once she exhausted her school’s curriculum, she petitioned her computer science teacher to support her in a AP Computer Science independent study that she completed on her own time. Elena also conducted a yearlong research study at VitreoRetinal Surgery, during which she developed software that diagnoses Alzheimer’s disease using retinal biomarkers. She worked with a partner, using her programming abilities to code software that first allows a user to measure retinal scans, and the analyze the measure to indicate likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease. This year, Elena used her programming skills to analyze online interactions using a big data-set containing over 3 million data points. In college, Elena plans to major in computer programming. Her goal is to become a software engineer.
Junior at Bemidji High School, Bemidji
Senior at Burnsville High School, Savage
Anna Swarna Bunce is a State honorable mention who remembers remembers playing on her grandfather’s computer as a young child. In middle school, she participated in a gifted and talented program through ISD 191 that focused on creating games from scratch. She has participated in the marching band, Olympic weightlifting, and bowling through Burnsville High School (BHS). She is also part of the BHS Tech Team. Anna has been involved with the Best Buy Geek Squad Help Desk at BHS this year and hopes to be Acer certified by the end of the year. Her teacher, Ms. Drahos, has been an influential part of Anna’s positive experiences with computer technology. Anna is currently a student leader in the IT Exploration class, where she assists in training the incoming students on the trouble tracking system and makes sure their questions are answered. She has spoken in front of the BHS school board on topics such as promoting coding in the classroom and her experiences with the BHS Tech Team help desk. As a result, Anna has been asked to be on an elite panel sponsored by Google and Best Buy to answer questions from administrators and other professionals from Minnesota School Districts. She plans to attend North Central University in Minneapolis in the fall to major in computer science.
Junior at Apple Valley High School, Burnsville
Emily DeBoard is a State honorable mention who has been excited by technology from a very young age. She carries her passion and inquisitive nature with her wherever she goes. She is a member of the E3 STEM program, the National Honor Society, and the National Art Honor Society at her school. Emily has enhanced her technology skills through participation in many SPARCS events. She has also been participating in the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics program for three years, which has been her favorite high school experience so far. On the team, she works on the 3D modeling and 3D printing, which she has grown to love. The soft skills Emily has mastered from her time on the robotics team will take her far in her future career, whatever it may be. Emily’s favorite pastime is drawing. She practices every day and enjoys doing traditional and digital drawings for fun and for her friends. Ever since middle school, Emily has dreamed of pursuing her art as a career in the form of animation or game design. She hopes to continue learning and growing with the new technology that will be available to her.
Junior at Mayo High School, Rochester
Celeste Dyrbye-Wright is a State award winner and National honorable mention who attends Mayo High School. As an avid learner, and a young woman pursuing her dream of becoming a computer scientist, Celeste started teaching herself computer science languages in the sixth grade. She Attended an academic summer camp where she took a class on artificial intelligence, from which she had two key take aways: one, it’s possible to learn a programming language in two and a half days; and two, she wanted to be on the brink of artificial intelligence research. When school started up again, Celeste joined her school’s First Robotics team, learned C++, and through hard work and dedication became the head programmer and remains in that position. She is a member of the National Honors Society and Spanish National Honors Society. She especially enjoys tutoring others. Celeste’s goal is to leverage artificial intelligence and other programming system to improve people’s lives.
Junior at Edina High School, Edina
Aarathi Garimella is a State honorable mention and also a member of the Math Team, Debate Team, FIRST Robotics Team, and the Vice President of the Interact Club. She has always been interested in STEM, starting from when she took apart her first CPU to see how it functioned, to the countless programming and robotics camps she attended during her early summers. Her interest in STEM grew as she began to learn more about computers and programming. As a sophomore, Aarathi took AP Computer Science to continue to foster this interest. She also joined her school’s FIRST Robotics team as a sophomore and began using her new skill in Java to help program the robots. She learned about the flexibility of computer science by being able to create a data collection program for scouting at tournaments. Now, as a junior, she has begun to teach the first-year members command based Java. She has mentored Junior FIRST Lego League teams and has started a Girls Who Code Club at her former middle school to give young girls an opportunity to explore computer science a little bit deeper. Aarathi plans to attend college in the future to pursue a career in the mathematics field.
Sophomore at Eagan High School, Eagan
Grace Hansen is a State honorable mention, whose mission in life is to pursue a career in STEM and to encourage other girls and diverse groups to get involved in science and technology. She joined the First Lego League Jr. in the second grade and has since been hooked on the FIRST Robotics program. In 2008, she was a founding member of her all-girls robotics team, the Green Girls. Grace participates on the build sub-team and also serves as an informal leader. Both she and her team have worked tirelessly to promote STEM education in their community. She has spent hundreds of hours with her team running camps, including monthly sessions at the PACER Center for Children with disabilities and for Dakota County Foster Kids. Her team teaches their own special STEM curriculum at the camps and Grace has even presented the materials in Spanish, to expose girls to STEM whose first language is Spanish. In her free time, Grace plays the saxophone and participates in soccer and track. She enjoys science and math courses in school, but her favorite class is AP Computer Science. As a junior, she is extremely excited to take classes in mobile apps and development and to learn Swift. In the future, she hopes to create and mentor more all-girls teams within the Eagan Robotics program. In college, she wants to major in mechanical engineering and minor in computer science.
Junior at East Ridge High School, Woodbury
Ashley Holton, a State award winner, has always had a passion for science, math and technology, with a particular aptitude for math. She has always been drawn to STEM and began to explore her interests in depth when she decided to take a Project Lead The Way (PLTW) computer science class during her sophomore year in high school. She is currently developing her computing skills in her AP Computer Science class and participation in FIRST Robotics. On her school’s robotics team Ashley is the co-lead of the software team, and lead of the awards team. Ashley also has developed an interest in artificial intelligence, taking online courses to begin exploring the possibilities of artificial intelligence. Ashley is a varsity letter recipient in basketball, track and field, participates in Key club, is the secretary and webmaster for her school’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance, and is the co-president of the STLF (Students Today Leaders Forever) club. She is excited to continue developing her passion for STEM by taking PSEO multivariable calculus, linear algebra, and brain science courses at Century College in the next school year. Ashley plans to study computer science and neuroscience in college.
Senior at Edina High School, Edina
Maylat Kassa is a State award winner who loves to take advantage of opportunities to learn. She was one of Starkey Hearing Technologies’ first interns, where she worked with electroacoustic, quality, and microelectronics engineers to design a standard Starkey hearing aid. There, she learned about the fundamentals of hearing technology, from the intricate layers of a printed circuit board/PCB to how to use schematic diagram software. At Starkey, she expanded upon her experience gained from PLTW (Project Lead The Way) classes she took at her high school, such as Intro to Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering, and Civil Engineering. Maylat is currently learning how to code in Java in AP Computer Science, and has experience with other coding languages as well. She volunteered at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center where she was involved in a doctor simulation. Working closely with anesthesiologists, EM doctors, and radiologists, who demonstrated the inner workings of medical imaging devices, such as spinal implants and heart monitors. Maylat plans to pursue pre-med and major in biomedical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and hopes to become a radiologist.
Junior at Eastview High School, Apple Valley
Priya Kumar is a State honorable mention. She has been interested in computers since she was young, which led to her love for coding, video editing, and social media. This past summer she was chosen to participate in Kode with Klossy, a coding camp created by supermodel Karlie Kloss. At the camp, she learned Ruby on Rails, HTML and CSS and developed her first app called “Fit Me.” In addition to Kode with Klossy, she participated in the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management’s camp for high school girls, Women Mean Business, where she learned about how her interest in STEM translated into the business world. Priya is currently enrolled in AP Computer Science Principles and is planning to take AP Computer Science her senior year. She is also the Minnesota Leader for CoderGals, a club for elementary school girls to learn how to code, and is working on starting the first Minnesota chapter at local elementary schools. In addition to her love of STEM, she also enjoys tutoring elementary school children, traveling, and making videos in her free time. Priya hopes to attend college to major in computer science and/or international business and minor in graphic design.
Senior at Breck School, Golden Valley
Archana Murali is a State award winner and National honorable mention. In 11th grade, her interest in computer programming was sparked by a research project she conducted on Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Archana coded a program in Python programing language that can measure retinal scans and developed diagnostic software that compares biomarker measurements in retinal images. Archana plans on developing more software that can help people with a click of a button. She co-founded a Computer Programming Club at her school, which helps build relationships between students who are interested in computer programming and to inspire others to learn similar skills. She is a coding leader on her school’s FIRST robotics team and she enjoys working with automatic image analysis software and coding in Python and Java. Archana hopes to study biomedical engineering in college.
Senior at Hutchinson High School, Hutchinson
Junior at John Marshall High School, Rochester
Oreoluwa Odeyinka is a State honorable mention and the first of four children, three of which, including her, were born in Ibadan, Nigeria. When she was eight years old, she immigrated to the United States and has loved every moment of it. Her love for computer science was sparked when she took her first web design class in the seventh grade and for the first time saw “Hello World” printed on her screen. Having participated in BDPA’s youth computer training and web design classes for the past five years, she has had the amazing opportunity to attend the national conference all five of those years. Oreoluwa is a youth volunteer at the Mayo Clinic and her church’s media section, and she actively participates on Student Council. Outside of school, she is on the four-time Big 9 champion speech team in the category of discussion, is a sprinter on the track team, and works at a tutoring center for children. Along with some friends in her school’s GPS program, she started a mentorship program for freshmen to help set them on the right path as they begin their high school careers. Oreoluwa plans on taking AP Computer Science next year to prepare her for college, and after graduation, she wants to pursue a career in medicine and computer science.
Junior at Apple Valley High School, Apple Valley
Marie Pena is a State award winner who loves to learn new things. Participating in countless activities in her community and school, she is constantly expanding her mind to everything she can, from being a member of a 2016 world champion FIRST Tech Challenge team, The Iron Maidens, to taking STEM based college courses through the E3 STEM program. She works diligently on projects that will improve the future of Apple Valley High School and its students. Marie’s passions lie in video gaming and technology. Starting at a young age, she helped her father build and fix computers, which evolved into formatting and configuring her whole family’s network of laptops and PCs. In school, she’s enjoyed taking courses on web design, programming, CAD, Cisco Networking, Cisco Microcomputer maintenance, Cisco Security+, and graphic design. She applies the learning to her family’s startup multimedia business and to other startup companies to help them achieve their goals. In the future, Marie plans on continuing to work with businesses and the STEM community while studying digital marketing, game development and computer science.
Senior at Rosemount High School, Rosemount
Anna Peterson is a State award winner who is always looking to learn more, especially in her math, physics, and computer science classes. Anna decided to go outside of her comfort zone and take AP computer science her junior year. Since then, she has valued every minute of the class and all of the opportunities technology has opened up to her. She has grown as a problem solver and thinker, helping her in all realms of her life. Along with learning Java in class, she spent a portion of her summer self-learning HTML and attending coding camps. Outside of the classroom, Anna is a member of the cross country, Nordic and track teams and Anna leads her student council. One of her most notable qualities is the immense passion she puts into everything she does. As a result, Anna sees herself harnessing that passion for computing and math into college and the rest of her life. She wants to study projects that incorporate technology with space and astronomy, eventually leading her to her dream job of working at NASA.
Sophomore at Wayzata High School, Maple Grove
Preeti Pidatala is a State award winner and National honorable mention. Her interest in computer science was originally sparked in elementary school, when she spent time exploring the basic game design software SCRATCH. Preeti further developed her interest in computer science in high school when she joined her school’s FIRST robotics program, where she found an exciting technological community. She took two programming classes: a class in C++ and a college level AP class taught in Java. Often finding herself one of very few girls in STEM classes, she strongly encourages girls to join STEM classes. Currently, Preeti is the leader of the programming team on her FRC team and enjoys sharing her interest in computer science with others. Preeti is looking forward to learning new programming languages and has plans to take cybersecurity and animation courses in the coming years. Apart from computer science, Preeti enjoys playing tennis and the piano. When she goes to college, Preeti is planning to pursue a degree in computer science.
Junior at Rosemount High School, Eagan
Victoria Pierce is a State award winner who loves Math and Science. Her greatest technical accomplishment is an app that she made that takes data from a small airline and maps the flight paths of different flights across the United States. In addition to her interests in technical fields, Victoria is passionate about the Arts and Languages. She plays guitar, violin, banjo and piano. At national music competitions, she placed first in several categories, qualifying to represent the United States at Worlds in the under 18 category. In addition, Victoria is passionate about writing and has written three novels about her childhood as a Missionary Kid in Jinja, Uganda, East Africa where she lived for ten years. At the age of 5, she moved to Uganda and began learning the language, Luganda. Since then she has studied Arabic and Swahili as well. In college, Victoria plans on majoring in Biomedical Engineering with minors in Computer Science and Arabic. She hopes to eventually earn a master’s degree in Physical Therapy. She believes that the combination of a medical degree with her experience in crossing cultures and languages could lead her to a career in the Middle East. Victoria’s goal is to help women who would otherwise not receive health care.
Senior at Rosemount High School, Rosemount
Laura Rietveld is a State honorable mention who helped start a Hack Club at her school this year. Through Hack Club, she helps kids at all levels of programming ability develop their skills. Laura is on the leadership board and helps design outreach activities and meetings to encourage other students to pursue a future in computer science. In 2016, she received a NCWIT Aspirations National Award of Distinction for all the work and leadership she demonstrated in computer science and technology. Laura has been on the chess team for four years, two years as captain, and has grown the program to include more than double the original number of students. She also tutors friends and their younger siblings, because she enjoys problem solving and helping people. She is currently taking an Advanced Data Structures course, and she completed the Advanced Placement Computer Science course last year. Laura plans to attend college to study computer science and mathematics.
Senior at Willmar Senior High School, Kandiyohi
Elizabeth Rivas is a State honorable mention, who moved from California to Willmar, Minnesota with her family in 2010. Elizabeth will soon become a first-generation high school graduate and college student. During her sophomore year, Elizabeth decided that she wanted to become a mechanical engineer after taking the following classes: Introduction to Engineering and Design, Digital Electronics, Gaming and Web Design, Computer Applications, Small Engines, and Advanced Small Engines. Elizabeth has also been a member of Willmar’s FIRST Robotics high school team for three years. She says, “Being a member of the build team meant we were always in the shop, machining parts and putting it all together for our robot. I want to become a mechanical engineer because I have a passion for fixing and improving everyday machines that help others.” Elizabeth is grateful for her step-dad, Saul Meraz, and her teacher, Mike Kroeker, who have helped her get to where she is today. They taught her valuable practical skills and encouraged her to do her best. Elizabeth plans to attend Dunwoody College of Technology this fall to major in mechanical engineering.
Junior at Math and Science Academy, Cottage Grove
Evelline Samson is a State honorable mention who took an interest in Computer Science and web design after learning HTML and CSS in her freshman year of school. During the summer of 2016, Evelline and a team of four other students represented the Twin Cities at a national level coding competition. Though the team did not place, Evelline gained valuable networking and teamwork experience from the event and continues to use this knowledge in the many clubs and activities she is involved in. Evelline is co-founder and leader in several clubs, such as the Social Justice Club and her library’s Teen Advisory Board. She is currently working to institute a summer Coding Program at the local library for kids. At her school, Evelline is a Teacher Assistant for the class, Science of Flight, and enjoys mentoring 6th grade students as they learn to navigate through Middle School. In her free time, Evelline loves to learn new languages, such as Java and Italian, read scientific articles about Biomedical breakthroughs, and ride her bike with her siblings.
Junior at DeLaSalle High School, Saint Paul
Senior at Wayzata High School, Wayzata
Senior at Wayzata High School, Maple Grove
Allison Sholl is a State award winner. She got what some may consider, a late start with computers, taking her first class, intro to computer technology, during her junior year of high school. After taking that course, she wanted to dive into technology and signed up for four more courses. After her fist time programming in Visual Basic, she knew computing was for her. The opportunity to solve problems with an entirely new way of thinking enthralled her. This year Allison took AP Computer Science Principles, which is a software engineering course. She developed a trivia app, created a maze game, and learned how to code in Python. In addition, she created a website about driverless cars, which she researched to get a better understanding of this important technological advancement. Outside of school, Allison has participated in various SPARCS events such as a day at Microsoft learning how to code and meeting with female mentors, and an event learning how to use databases through Trailhead Basecamp. Allison plans to attend college to pursue a major in management information systems or computer science.
Junior at Apple Valley High School, Apple Valley
Senior at Norman County West High School, Hendrum
Amanda Tommerdahl is a State award winner. One of her greatest accomplishments is having the courage to pursue a career in technology, despite being a young woman from a small farming community. Amanda’s high school offered very few technology courses and had only a few opportunities for advanced education. Her interest in technology only grew and she began seeking out her own ways of learning. Amanda is currently enrolled in PSEO at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, to complete college courses while still attending her high school. Amanda hopes to inspire other young women to pursue their interests, even if they are in a male-dominated field. Amanda believes that people deserve every opportunity to discover what they love and that sometimes you must go and find those opportunities on your own. After attending a GenCyber program in the summer of 2016, Amanda decided to attend Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota, in the fall, to major in cyber security. She is aspiring to obtain a master’s degree and move to the Washington D.C. area to work as a penetration tester. Amanda’s goals for the future are to travel around the world, hike the Appalachian Trail, and expand her knowledge of computers and technology.
Junior at Wayzata High School, Plymouth
Cathylin Wang is a State honorable mention. In middle school, she used W3Schools to teach herself HTML and CSS. For a short time, she worked as a freelance web designer and was commissioned to make online storefronts for several artists. In her sophomore year, Cathylin took AP Computer Science and learned Java. She has won regional and state competitions in Java, computer animation, computer security, and computer programming concepts through Business Professionals of America. She is currently using her Java skills to make programs that collect and process laboratory data in her research internship. Cathylin is also currently learning Python and working on creating a videogame.
Senior at DeLaSalle High School, Columbia Heights
Tien VoNguyen is a State honorable mention who is fluent in both Vietnamese and English, English being her second language. Her dedication to schoolwork and education has earned her a spot on the National Honor Society. She is involved in many extracurricular activities, including Soccer, Mock Trial, Step Team, National Art Honor Society, and Atlatl Society. She started coding last year as a part of the Technovation Challenge, a program where girls work in teams to build a mobile app and create a business plan to launch that app, supported by mentors and guided by a curriculum. Today, Tien is a Student Ambassador for the program and was flown to San Francisco for training, tech-based workshops, and the World Pitch for the 2016 winners of the Challenge. Tien also serves on the Technovation MN Board. Since participating in Technovation, she has taken several coding language courses and works with Python, C++, and App Inventor source code. She is looking to further educate herself on matters of the world, to better her skills in leadership and entrepreneurship, and to gain more experience in working with technology. Tien hopes to pursue biomedical engineering and computer science beyond high school.
Senior at Mounds View High School, Mounds View
Maddie Wang is both a National award winner and State award winner, and an entrepreneur who enjoys creating various tech-related startups. Growing up, video games drew her to technology because she felt empowered by the limitless possibilities of the digital world. Her first startup revolved around her favorite game Minecraft, where she generated $39,000 in profit. Maddie’s current start-up involves the development of a device that can prevent sexual assault and is officially incorporated and patent pending. Inspired by recent college rape scandals and her own experience in sexual harassment, Maddie realized how urgent social change is needed. Throughout this whole process, she learned that entrepreneurship combined with technology has the capacity to improve society. Maddie also founded an Art and Literature magazine for her district’s high school to put the “A” back in “STEAM.” She enjoys playing tennis, drawing/painting, playing viola, and web design. She has played her viola at All State, Minnesota Youth Symphonies, various quartets, and weddings. Maddie plans to continue her journey in college where a solid foundation in computer science can help her achieve her ultimate goal: to use technology to improve society.
Senior at Edina High School, Richfield
Vanessa Wang is a State award winner who became interested in technology after taking math and engineering classes. But, it wasn’t until her sophomore year that she discovered her love for computer science by joining her high school’s FIRST robotics team as a rookie Java programmer. Despite the challenges that came with having little programming experience, Vanessa found coding intriguing enough to sign up for AP Computer Science in her junior year. She enjoyed it so much, she decided to participate in the Summer Computing Academy Camp for Female Students to learn Python and explore how computing is used in research. She is currently a teacher assistant for AP Computer Science and enjoys sharing her enthusiasm with fellow students. Vanessa is an active member on the robotics team, and has sought to learn more about programming, such as creating GUIs and using Git. She has volunteered with FIRST Tech Challenge, Hour of Code, and Girls Who Code to help others find their passion in programming. Vanessa plans to study computer science in college, and hopes to incorporate her interest in electronics by exploring computer engineering as well.
Teacher at Burnsville High School
Cindy Drahos teaches in the business education department at Burnsville High School, and as an instructor for Normandale Community College in the Computer Information Management Department. She has earned a Masters in Arts in Education and certificate in Education Technology, and is currently completing her graduate level Certificate in Computer Science Education from the College of St. Scholastica. She teaches a variety of classes ranging from IT Exploration to the recently approved Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles class. Since she started teaching computer science, her class load has gone from 2 classes in computer science to a full schedule of teaching all classes in CS. Enrollment had more than doubled in the number of sections offered. Her class partners with Best Buy. The students work side by side with the Geek Squad Agent at the school’s help desk. Since the one-to-one device initiative she helped put together a summer training involving Geek squad representatives and students to train the broader student body for Chromebook deployment. Her students trained over 2000 students this past summer, in two days.She enjoys learning new technology and encourages students to be creative and have fun while learning. She’s a proud guide of two students who were recognized in the Congressional Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Competition in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional DistrictApp Development Contest. She is an advocate for female engagement in technology, with one of her past students receiving the State’s Aspirations in Computing Award, and National Runner-up Award. This year one of her students is an Honorable Mention recipient at the State level. She readily supports students to attend the annual DigiGirlz event at Microsoft, SPARCS camps, works with Advance IT MN to bring in Tech IT Out! MN classroom presenters, provides field trips to technology companies, and eMentoring. She has assisted in training sessions at the CoderDoJo/Code Savvy. She is partnering with the Apple Valley High School STEM coordinator to bring the students together for a special event featuring the movie Hidden Figures, with industry professionals to speak after the movie. She definitely knows how to connect and network, to make good things happen for her students! Cindy has received the Carpenter Achievement Award through Best Prep, MnACTE Teacher of the Year, President’s Award MNACTA, Secondary Outstanding Business Educator Award and the TIES Exceptional Teacher Award. She is currently the Secretary for the Gopher State Computer Science Teachers Association (MN CSTA), serves on the BHS Digital Transition Team, the BHS Student Support Help Desk Planning Team, adviser for the Gaming and Programming Club, Tech Club, and Stock Market Club. She resides in Eagan, Minnesota, where she dreams up even more ways and partnerships, to benefit students.
2017 Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Educator - Honorable Mention Award
Teacher at Mounds View High School
While taking a required computer science class for her math degree at Gustavus Adolphus College, Kaitie O’Bryan found an unexpected love for computer science and has been eager to encourage all students to explore the field in hopes that they, too, will discover their love for computer science. Kaitie O’Bryan is a math and computer science teacher at Mounds View High School. She introduced the school’s only computer science class to the building in fall of 2015 with a group of 20 students and grew the program to include 100 students the following year. Kaitie’s goal as a teacher is to support collaborative problem solving in all her classes, to provide students opportunities to be creative in class, and to empower all teachers to teach computer science in their classrooms. She is a strong advocate for female student enrollment and success in math and computing courses. She is especially proud to have guided and endorsed one of her students being being honored this year as a state and national Aspirations in Computing Award Winner. Kaitie O’Bryan is also a Knowles Science Teaching Fellow, and is the Treasurer of Minnesota’s Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) chapter. Kaitie resides in Minneapolis, MN.
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 their youth development support.
GRAND PRIZE: Summer Internships
This is the fifth year the awards program has offered an internship as a Grand Prize. This year we are delighted that eight companies are providing honorees a summer paid internship. Some companies are hiring numerous awardees. This year we extend our sincere appreciation to the noted internship providers. And, we congratulate the noted recipients.
HelpSystems – Laura Rietveld
Land O’Lakes, Inc. – Grace Hansen, Maylat Kassa, Tien VoNguyen
Medtronic – Maddie Wang
PeopleNet – Elena Berman, Vanessa Wang
SPS Commerce – Aarathi Garimella, Victoria Pierce, Alyissa Sanders
STEM Fuse – Evelline Samson
Thomson Reuters – Marie Pena
Veritas Technologies – Ashmita Sarma
Minnesota State Scholarships
This year’s program features a $4,000 scholarship to Century College,a $4,000 scholarship to St. Cloud University, and $2,000 scholarships to other higher education institutions within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Minnesota is nationally recognized as a high quality education state, as well as a state possessing excellent employers, contributing to a vibrant Minnesota economy. This is especially true in the rapidly growing areas of technology products and services. We’re grateful to Maverick Software Consulting, STEM Fuse, Century College Foundation and SUPERVALU for teaming up to provide these scholarship opportunities. Their generous contributions establish the foundation to address scholarship needs for years to come, to support honorees and their families.