The 2022 Minnesota Aspirations in Computing State Honorable Mention Award Recipients (Q-Z)

The 2022 Minnesota Aspirations in Computing State Honorable Mention Award Recipients (Q-Z)

The Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards (MNAiC) program is proud to announce the 2022 class of honorees, selected from high schools throughout Minnesota by national and state review teams.

Family, friends, educators, business partners and sponsors will gather to support and celebrate the award recipients remarkable I.T. achievements at a virtual ceremony the evening of April 13th.

Watch the 2022 Virtual Ceremony Here

State Honorable Mention Honorees have demonstrated an interest and aptitude for computing.

Honorees are featured in local and statewide media and eligible for a range of prizes including mentoring/job shadowing experiences, paid summer internships, cash rewards, swag, and trophies.

Honorees also receive access to exclusive resources provided by the National Center of Women and Information Technology (NCWIT).

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(Page Down to See All Award Recipients)


Alex Rimbu

Junior at Highland Park Senior High School

Alex is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Both of her parents work in IT, so she began to take interest in computer science early on. In middle school, she participated in the Technovation[MN] competition. Her team designed a carpooling phone app and was a Minnesota Regional Finalist. In high school, Alex took all available computer science classes, and is currently taking an IB Computer Science Course. Last summer, she completed Harvard’s edX CS50 class, in which she learned many programming languages, including Python, SQL, Java, and C. Over the past summer, Alex participated in two lab internships. One of the internships was a study on neurological diseases and involved database work. The other internship was on COVID hotspots and the patterns of their locations. This internship involved coding in SQL, and the use of an external database. In her free time, Alex enjoys creative writing. Last summer, she wrote a novel and won the Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Key Award. Alex also enjoys volunteering, having volunteered at a Kumon Center for the past two summers, as well as being part of the National Honor Society at school. Alex plans to attend a 4-year university and earn a degree in Computer Science. From fine arts to helping the community, Alex believes computers can help us fulfill our dreams.

Zoke Sackih

Sophomore at Mounds View High School

Zoke is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She is also an aspiring astrophysicist and programmer. Her passion for science and technology was sparked after watching the Marvel Movie, Ant-Man. She was fascinated with the various forms of science introduced to her as she watched, and started her discovery of the STEM fields. In ninth grade, Zoke joined Technovation[MN], a worldwide club that inspires girls to build technology and businesses. Initially, she did not have a strong interest in coding, but she gave it a chance. She worked with her Technovation team to program an app based on environmental consciousness called UpCycle. Her portion of the work was heavily code-based and focused on creating the app from scratch. While working on programming for UpCycle, Zoke fell deeper in love with the field of computer programming. Following her success in Technovation[MN], she enrolled in AP Computer Science A. Through this course, she is constantly expanding her programming skills. In addition to taking AP Computer Science, Zoke joined the FIRST Robotics team at her school. In this club, she focuses on learning how to code a robot for success in various competitions. Zoke understands that there is not much representation of women in STEM. However, she believes that they are powerful influences in these fields. Zoke takes great pride in her accomplishments and is eager to see what her future has in store.

Trisha Samba

Junior at Breck School

Trisha is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was a Certificate of Distinction recipient in 2021. Trisha’s interest in global issues stemmed from her involvement in regional and state science fairs. Since seventh grade, she went from building portable water filters to creating a water-resistant bioplastic. Through these projects Trisha developed a passion for innovation and invention which influenced her to explore extracurriculars surrounding this. She is involved in the engineering and design portion of the robotics team at her school. Trisha also self-learned CSS, HTML, and C++ to create her own personal website and blog. She believes that because computer science is very prevalent and will continue to grow in our society, it is a key skill to learn and can open up many opportunities in the future. Last summer, Trisha created a free coding camp for kids in low-income communities to learn how to code. She also led her own club, called “Young Inventors” where fourth-graders learned from high schoolers how to tap into their creative side while exploring STEM through mentor-protege online sessions. Throughout the summer, Trisha worked in the BioSensing and BioRobotics lab at the University of MN designing and building a maze. In her project, she explored the principles of Computer-Aided Design while also learning how to code with Arduino to incorporate functional automatic sensors in the maze. While she’s still exploring the various fields, Trisha is interested in mechatronics engineering and hopes to enhance life in a sustainable environment

Tanisha Senapati

Sophomore at Eastview High School

Tanisha is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Her love for computers started early while learning from her father about the different parts of a computer and what you can use them for. Through classes in middle school and high school she has deeply explored computer science and engineering. Tanisha was part of the middle school’s Tech Titans team doing several projects with coding and technology.  She recently participated in a hackathon where she developed a fully functioning app to help fix the issue of food waste in her local community. Over the summer, Tanisha participated in a lot of coding and java activities with different organizations. She is very interested in biomedicine and enjoys the collaborative, hands-on projects in her AP bio class. Tanisha has participated in Speech and Debate in her school and recently took third place at the state level in the junior varsity section of her category. She is part of FCCLA which is a volunteer organization at her school and in math club where her team made it to the state meet last year. Tanisha also works in the background on the technical team for a lot of the plays and musicals at her school. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. Tanisha plans to major in pre-med with a focus on computers in healthcare and programming. She has an interest in Biomedical Engineering and would love to make the technology we have more accessible and affordable for people to receive care.

Fiona Shand

Senior at Edina High School

Fiona is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was a Rising Star in 2021. From an early age, she has been interested in pursuing the technology field. In middle school, courses like Design robotics, Flight and Space, and Green Architecture were always Fiona’s favorites. Outside of school, she completed camps like ID Tech, Coder Dojo and the Technovation Challenge. All of these led her to take a year-long Computer Science AP course as a Freshman in high school. Fiona noticed how students struggled in Java and needed extra resources and support, so she created the “Computer Science Club”. The club was designed for students to help other struggling students, specifically women. In Sophomore year, Fiona took a semester-long HTML course, which helped open her eyes to new coding languages. That winter, she completed the Congressional App Challenge with her sister where they created an app for children to learn the states. They earned third place in their district. Teaching others was a continuing trend as Fiona started tutoring younger kids in Math and STEM classes. She also pushed herself to take challenging AP classes, like AP Computer Science Principles, where she gained a deeper understanding of the inner workings of computers, and learned SQL, machine code, and C. In the future, Fiona is excited to attend the University of Greenwich in London, where she will be majoring in Computer Science, in hopes to gain more cultural understanding, as well as implement her technological knowledge to change the world!

Ribka Solomon

Junior at Richfield High School

Ribka is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Throughout high school, Ribka has done a number of things related to coding and the use of technology in the real world. She was one of a few people who founded a Robotics club, which is currently working on two robots. Her interest for computer science and engineering was sparked while taking Intro to Web Design and Physics Inquiry classes in her freshman and junior year of high school. She is also part of the Rooted in STEM mentorship program at the University of Minnesota. In this program, students were able to gain knowledge from undergraduate and Graduate students in the STEM field. This route will allow her to explore her passion for solving real world  issues with advanced technologies. Ribka has volunteered at the Red Cross and other organizations in her local church where she became a teacher for young students who want to learn the language Amharic as well as Ethiopian culture and traditions. She participated in and is interested in advocating for International law advocacy for the Red Cross. Ribka believes that her interest in learning different things, trying different research and involvement in mentorship programs, have helped her find her passion. As a result of her past experiences, she plans to become a Chemical Engineering major.

Nikolai Tan

Senior at Math & Science Academy, Woodbury

Nikolai is a State Honorable Mention recipient. They have been interested in technology in general since they were young, but their interest in coding was sparked through their participation in various extracurricular activities at their high school. They have continued to follow their passion, leading them to join their school’s robotics team, get involved with the community, and even acquire an internship at Securian Financial this past summer. Nikolai is passionate about all sorts of computing-related fields, including robotics, programming, game development, and computer engineering. They are a proud captain and driver for their school’s FIRST Robotics Competition team, The Fighting Calculators, as well as for their FTC robotics team for gender minorities, The Wyvern Warriors. They strive to make STEM more accessible by teaching programming lessons at their school, organizing STEM outreach events for their community, and volunteering at programming camps. During the week, Nikolai takes classes at the University of Minnesota and works as an IT assistant for their school, where they repair laptops, assist staff with technology issues, and do front-end web development. When they aren’t making robots, working, or studying, they enjoy honing their skills in music, art, programming, and game development. In the future, Nikolai is interested in exploring the applications of computer science to artistic endeavors, as well as finding ways to make STEM fields more welcoming and accessible, especially to marginalized groups.
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Nalani Vang

Junior at Math and Science Academy

Nalani is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was a 2020 Certificate of Distinction recipient and a 2021 Rising Star. From a very young age, Nalani has been passionate about helping others through her love of medicine, technology, and community service. Her interest in computer coding first sparked when she joined the Girls Who Code program at the University of Minnesota. She has been involved in coding and technology programs for over seven years. Nalani found a mentor that could provide professional insight on computing careers in the real world and advice on how to succeed in the field. Meeting with her mentor opened paths to new opportunities and connections to a vast network of leaders. Nalani recognized the importance of women’s contributions to technology when collaborating with other young women. She is involved in 4-H, Girl Scouts, Skynet Scholars, Student Council, and National Honor Society. Currently, Nalani is a full-time PSEO student at Century College with a focused career in computer science, biology, and math.  In the future, she plans to major in biology or biomedical engineering and pursue a career of becoming a surgeon. Nalani believes that creating new software and applications to further study and improve medical procedures through mechanics is a critical tool that can help bring advancements to the medical field.
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Pa Vang

Senior at Park Center Senior High

Pa is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was introduced to the idea of coding in Scratch through a club in middle school. Even after the club ended, she continued exploring Scratch and created projects. During her first year as a high school student, she created her own game on Scratch. During her junior year as a PSEO student, Pa wanted to develop her coding skills so that she could create better projects on Scratch, so she took an intro to web page programming class. During the following summer, she had the opportunity to take part in Girls Who Code, which allowed her to use her newly learned web page programming skills in addition to JavaScript. Pa is a tech intern at Target through Genesys Works, Genesys Works Student Advisory Board member and Student Ambassador, participant of DTCC Rising Stars and University of Minnesota Emerging Leaders of Color, and YWI Dream STEM Lead cohort. She is currently pursuing an Associate’s degree in accounting and will continue her degree after high school, hoping to merge and utilize her computing skills with her business skills.

Ashley Villar

Junior at John Marshall High School

Ashley is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was a 2020 and 2021 Rising Star. Ashley has had the urge to take action and help others ever since she was little. Her family is from Peru, a third world country. She wishes her relatives could have the opportunities she does in the United States. Ashley wants to dedicate her future career to doing something helpful. Ever since middle school, Ashley has had a passionate interest in the STEM field, specifically in software. When Ashley joined the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing program, she has participated in many virtual meetings and Hackathons that have widened her view on all of the STEM careers. Ashley has decided that she wants to major in Computer Science to become a Software Engineer or a Robotics Engineer.

Leigha Wood

Junior at Mounds View High School

Leigha is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She was a Certificate of Distinction recipient in 2021. Leigha’s interest in STEM showed from a very young age when she would regularly attend the Minnesota Science Museum and participate in school science fairs. In 6th grade, she joined a FIRST LEGO League team and has been participating in FIRST robotics programs for the last six years. Now as a leader of her FIRST Tech Challenge team, Spontaneous Construction, she is responsible for CAD, construction, wiring, documentation, and finances. Leigha and her team regularly participate in outreach events where they advocate the importance of STEM. She is constantly learning from others, ranging from her teammates teaching her how use Fusion360 to engineers teaching her wire management and sheet metal manufacturing. In school, she takes multiple AP and advanced classes and is even planning to take an EMT training course to become a certified emergency responder.  In addition to robotics and school, Leigha is also a violinist in her school’s chamber orchestra, a martial artist, and a member of the National Honor Society. She is a Minnesota Dean’s List Awards finalist and a Stratasys scholarship recipient. Leigha has always been fascinated by medicine and hopes to combine her interests by pursuing a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

Izabelle Yang

Sophomore at Maple Grove Senior High

Izabelle is a State Honorable Mention recipient. Although her parents don’t have background in computer science, she has had a passion for it since her childhood. It was significantly sparked by a 6th-grade class when she learned how to program multiple LEDs, sensors, and motors on Arduino Boards. Since then, Izabelle has taken many opportunities to expand her knowledge of computer science by attending more STEM classes and clubs at her school and self-teaching. Her curiosity about game design recently led her to take a computer gaming and 3D modeling class. Izabelle has also joined her school’s FIRST Robotics team. Last year, she was part of the programming department and learned how to use JavaScript to program components of a robot. This year, she is in the mechanical department and has gained  more experience with CAD. Izabelle is motivated to  mentor and spread her love for STEM by reaching out and volunteering in her community. She is also interested in animals and biology, so this, along with her passion for technology, has prompted her to research how robots and AI can impact the biology field. Izabelle hopes to become a robotics engineer in the future to improve the efficiency and accuracy of veterinary procedures

Emma Zheng

Junior at Wayzata High School

Emma is a State Honorable Mention recipient. She has always had a higher interest and talent in STEM subjects in school. She started seriously competing in math competitions in 8th grade, and ever since then she has competed in numerous competitions, including the Minnesota State High School Math League and the Harvard MIT Mathematics Tournament. Both of Emma’s parents are software engineers, so as a child, she had always been interested in programming. Her interest really took off, however, after taking her first official computer science class at school. She now enjoys coding, and even teaches basic Java programming and math classes to younger kids at her part-time job. Other than computer science and math, Emma also works as a waitress, plays tennis, competes in DECA, plays piano and bassoon, and volunteers in her community. Despite having supposed talents in other areas, driving is not one of them — please watch out for a white Subaru on the roads! She is not sure as of right now where she wants to attend college or what she plans on studying, but she thinks it will be either business or computer science.