The 2015 Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards ceremony April 21 recognized 22 Minnesota high school women for their achievements in technology. The ceremony also recognized Minnesota’s 2015 Aspirations Educator of the Year.
The Aspirations for Women in Computing awards honor young women in grades 9-12 for their computing-related achievements and interests. Last night’s third annual ceremony took place at Land O’Lakes in Arden Hills, Minnesota. Along with their recognition, winners are awarded prizes ranging from tech devices to job shadowing opportunities at Minnesota businesses.
'Aspirations' ... a music video honoring the 2015 Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards recipients
National level winner
Darartu Gamada, a junior at Breck School, Golden Valley.
Ariana Pooley, senior at Wayzata High School (2015 national runner-up and 2014 Minnesota runner-up).
Erin Olson, senior at East Grand Forks High School (2015 national runner-up and 2014 Minnesota runner-up).
Janice Guallpa, senior at Columbia Heights High School (2015 national runner-up).
Amelia Rolf, senior at Wayzata High School.
Anna Mueller, senior at Prior Lake High School (2014 Minnesota runner-up).
Evelyn McChesney, junior at Breck School.
Hasna Ali, senior at Edina High School.
Kali Regenold, senior at Rosemount High School.
Maddy McCue, junior at Breck School.
Prabhjot Singh, senior at John Marshall Senior High School.
Ruoting Jia, senior at Mayo Senior High School.
Atalanta Stoeke, freshman at Apple Valley High School.
Carlita Heard, senior at Central High School, St. Paul.
Elizabeth Ihekoronye, senior at Central High School.
Katherine Myers, senior at Wayzata High School.
Katrina Gerhardt, senior at East Ridge High School.
Leah Abrahams, junior at Duluth East High School.
Maria Fendrich, senior at Rosemount High School.
Seri Choi, junior at Wayzata High School.
Tracey Treat, freshman at Eastview High School.
Uyen Nhi Dinh, senior at Columbia Heights High School.
Aspirations in Computing Educator (Minnesota)
Brian Fendrich, AP Computer Science teacher at Rosemount High School.
Junior at Duluth East High School
Leah Abrahams, a State runner-up, has been interested in science and technol-ogy all her life. She has also been a part of a FIRST robotics team for the past three years in the Media Department, and a captain for two of those years. This led her to have an interest in graphic design, and she hopes it will help her decide what her future career and education options could be. Thus far, her most exciting technical feat or accomplishment was in eighth grade when she participated in her first science fair and competed at the school, city/region level, and advanced to the state level. Overall, it was one of many exciting learning opportunities she has experienced. Leah plans to attend at least a four year college for the arts, web and graphic design, computer science or something else that suits her.
Senior at Edina High School
Hasna Ali is a State award winner and she is attending PSEO this year. Hasna is a well-driven student who strives to make a change in her life and the lives of her family. Currently Hasna is a Genesys Works young professional employed at Cargill. She works as an IT data management intern. Hasna is proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel and is well equipped with the knowledge of coding/scripting. Hasna is open to learning new things and enjoys her time on Codecademy to enhance her computer technology skills. Says Hasna, “I love learning, I like to immerse myself in at home projects like writing short stories or learning more about neuroscience. Knowing myself I have so many interests in so many things. My primary goal and aspiration for the future is to become the person I envision myself to be; a person who assists others and continues to change for the better. I want to prosper and help my family, my mom. She is my hero, seeing her continuously work hard so that I can have a better future has always captivated me. I want to be just as selfless, and continue to learn about the values of life.”
Junior at Wayzata High School
Seri Choi is a State runner-up. She is a member of her school’s Math Team, Science Olympiad Team, National Honor Society, and also Minnesota State Math Team. Seri thought her interest was solely mathematics, however, her experience at a summer math camp called MathILy changed her perspective. One of her favorite coding experiences from the camp included coding fractals, using iterated function and affine transformations in Mathematica. She was captivated by the extensive areas of application that coding could be involved in. After finding her interest in coding, Seri wanted to further study coding in depth. She started to self-learn Java from a website called Codecademy and also decided to enroll in AP Computer Science. Seri’s interest toward coding increased each day in AP Computer Science as she challenged herself to create something familiar yet new, and to build something complex out of simple, basic lines of codes. Now, coding is one of her main interests, and she is considering pursuing a degree in Computer Science.
Senior at Rosemount High School
Maria Fendrich is a State runner-up, currently attending Rosemount High School as a senior, while living in Apple Valley, MN. Her interest in Computer Science began when her dad persuaded her into taking AP Computer Science as an elective her junior year. Before taking this class, coding and computer science were not a part of her life, but nearly two years later she uses it every single day. After enjoying AP Computer Science, she decided to continue her career in Computer Science by taking Advanced Computer Science: Data Structures. Her high school is one of the only schools in the state to offer this course to high school students. Through this course her knowledge about Computer Science has expanded and caused her to look into it as a potential major or minor in college. By pursuing her interest in Computer Science, Maria is currently applying for several different internships over the summer. Her main goal by the end of this year is to create and write code for her own app. Listening to others explain their projects and all the work they’ve done motivates her to work hard in class and learn as much as she can to further her understanding and knowledge surrounding code.
Junior at Breck School, Golden Valley
Darartu Gamada is a National level winner; a top 35 honoree from a pool of 2,500 applicants. She is is also a 2014 State runner-up. Daratu’s technical accomplishment has been using the Itasca supercomputer at the University of Minnesota to run 31 simulations that she developed to determine the mechanisms by which copolymers serve as molecular bandages in sealing cardiac muscle cell membranes damaged by cardiomyopathy. This work sparked her interest in pursuing computational medical research as a possible career. This technical accomplishment stemmed from Darartu’s talent and achievements in math and science that include recognition by the Minnesota State Department Scholar of Distinction in STEM, as well as her being named a semifinalist in the national ExploraVision competition. Furthermore, Darartu formed and now captains her science bowl team and is the team captain of her schools Math League and Quiz Bowl teams. Additionally, Darartu is involved in FIRST robotics and is a co-captain on the Advanced Science Research Team.
Senior at East Ridge High School, Woodbury
Katrina Gerhardt, a State runner-up, has been on the FIRST Robotics team 3130 since tenth grade. The team was picked to test out a new software and electronic system for beta testing. She is currently the team lead for match scouting and the team lead for sub-build groups. She took three, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) cours-es from freshman to junior year, including Intro to Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering and Computer Science Engineering. She desired to take Digital Elec-tronics this year but not enough students signed up for it. So instead she enrolled in Small Engines, Accounting, Intro to Computer Programming, and a couple art classes. She wants to major in Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Katrina also wants to create and run a business that sells cars that are 100% self-powered. She started this interest in a self-powered car junior year, after deciding she wanted to be an inventor. She recently went to the Microsoft Youth Spark Event where she learned about being an Entrepreneur and decided she now wants to create phone and laptop apps to help her generate money for starting the business. She plans to work on many of her ideas this summer. Katrina has always enjoyed creating things and has many talents. She hopes to change the world someday.
Senior at Columbia Heights High School
Janice Guallpa is a 2015 State award winner and a 2015 National runner-up (finishing in the top 15% of recipients, nationally). Janice, born in the U.S., lived with her parents in Ecuador for eight years before returning to America for a better educa-tion, and to live with her aunt Julia. She overcame many ‘bumps in the road’ to get to where she is now. The first was navigating through the culture and language shock of a new country at the young age of eight. A second bump was convincing her aunt to let her use technology. Julia believed that everything could be done with a piece of paper and pen. Another bump was the perception that girls ‘do not do science’. Janice joined her schools robotics team in her freshman year of high school. She encountered many challenges on the robotics team such as stereotypes, learning how to program, and being a leader. Robotics became her learning ground for technology; she went from a girl who knew nothing about technology to a young woman who wanted to pursue electrical engineering as a career. Technology has changed her life by opening up new opportunities such as programming with National Instruments, learning how to wire a robot, and stand-ing up to boys with her own ideas. She is a part of Genesys Works, College Possible, and is interning with Target’s Hi Tech team. This internship has exposed her to the functions of laptops, phones, and tablets. She continues to embrace every opportunity that comes her way and makes the best out of each situation.
Senior at Central High School, St. Paul
Carlita Heard, a State runner-up, was born and raised in St. Paul. She currently lives in Eagan, MN and is enjoying an internship in downtown Minneapolis at Ameriprise Financial, which was granted through a program called Genesys Works. Within the Genesys Works program she’s been exposed to eight weeks of summer IT training with other fellow students who share a common interest in technology, which made it much more fun. Within the program the students learned how to take apart computers, install software, troubleshoot, identify different parts of computers, and more. After scoring above 90% on the technical test after the eight weeks of training, she knew she could make technology her career. She’s been able to be a part of projects like computer diagnostics, computer hard drive wiping, and computer Inventory during her internship. Carlita has always had a passion for technology and is following in her mom’s footsteps; she is currently a Network Engineer after obtain-ing her Master’s Degree. Carlita has often done little things like volunteer to help her teachers when they are having technical difficulties, which has helped to increase her motivation to learn more. Her passion for technology has grown since she’s been able to refine her career choice from her past internship at the City of Public Works with Civil/Traffic engineers. After high school, Carlita would like to attend a 4 year university studying computer science, computer engineering, audio engineering, Web design and computer programming.
Senior at Central High School, St. Paul
Elizabeth Ihekoronye, a State runner-up, started exploring computers at a young age, and later started coding during her junior year of high school. She fell in love with it and knew it was a career direction she needed to pursue. She enjoyed the freedom and creativity she experienced. The first coding class she took was intro to computer programming. She was the only girl in the class but this didn’t stop her from exploring the world of programming. She used programs like Scratch and Greenfoot to learn Java coding. In the summertime, she spent her days doing Codecademy so she could further her coding skills. She then took Computer Science during her senior year of high school. She liked it but it was missing something; CREATIVITY and IMAGINATION. This made her realize that she wanted to be a front-end developer; it would give her a chance to use creativity (design) and enjoy coding at the same time. She wanted to make people feel in awe when they looked at what was in front of all the numbers, letters, brackets and semi colons that painted a picture that millions of people would see every day. She is honored to be a part of the aspirations community, and is very excited to meet others that share the same creativity and passion she has for technology.
Senior at Mayo High School, Rochester
Ruoting Jia has been honored as a State award winner. Her interest in Computer Science dates back to her elementary school years, when her mother first showed her some little games made by Flash. She was amazed by the animations. At that time, she still did not know what exactly programming was, and how the tools like Flash were made. Her curiosity made her join a beginner level C++ club in middle school. Suddenly she realized that programming was the foundation of computer software, and she found writing a program to be even more interesting than making an animation with Flash! To further explore this field, she is taking AP Computer Science this year. She enjoys solving the logic problems and then converting the solution into code. The hardest task that she accomplished in this class was to design a game of “rock, paper, scissors”. Beyond that, Ruoting added more rules to make the game become “rock, paper, scissors, air, fire, lightening, and tree”, (25 terms in total). She felt so accomplished after she saw her code run successfully. She plans to continue her study in Computer Science in college. In the future, she wishes to use her technical skills and knowledge to help other people create new software which will make an impact.
Junior at Breck School, Golden Valley
Evelyn McChesney is a State award winner. Thus far, Evelyn’s greatest technical achievement has been to engineer avirulent probiotic bacteria to produce anti- microbial peptides that have the capability to target pathogenic bacteria. To com-plete this project, Evelyn built on skills that she developed in her first university-level research when she was only a sophomore, which involved engineering a solar, gravity-powered hybrid prototype with the purpose of expanding the range remote exploration using environmentally friendly energy sources. She also tapped experience from her participation in FIRST Robotics for the last three years, where she now serves as one of the team captains. Furthermore, Evelyn is a co-captain of the Advanced Science Research Program at her school, where she works towards the success of first-year research students. Evelyn’s future goals are to become a biochemical engineer at her own start-up company.
Junior at Breck School, Golden Valley
Maddy McCue is a State award winner. After joining her school’s FIRST robotics team, Team 3630, she was instantly hooked. Now, as a captain, she manages the entire team, is in charge of the team’s extensive outreach program, is the drive coach, and is one of the engineers for the electrical system of her team’s competi-tive robots. Realizing her love for science and engineering, she joined the Breck Advanced Science Research Team. She spent the summer after her sophomore year working at the University of Minnesota with a fellow high-school researcher to genetically engineer probiotic bacteria to produce antimicrobial peptides that can kill drug-resistant patho- genic bacteria as a novel alternative to antibiotics. Given that more and more bacterial pathogens are becoming resistant to antibiotics, the need for some kind of alternative to antibiotics is pressing, and her work fills this need. For this work, she has recently been honored as a Siemens Competition Semifinalist. Outside of the labs, she’s a circus performer, dancer, and gymnast. In her (minimal) free time, she fosters obsessions with European history, English, Marvel comics, and Star Trek. In the future, Maddy would like to pursue engineering both in college and as a career, and aims to one day fulfill her dream of working at NASA.
Senior at Prior Lake High School
Anna Mueller is a 2014 State runner-up and current State award winner. She has been involved in FIRST Robotics for the past three years as a programmer on team 2169 KING TeC and has helped to mentor younger teams. Her robotics experience has also lead her to take AP Computer Science and to teach programming to younger kids at summer camps, Teens Experiencing Technology, and the Minnesota State Fair as well as share programming with her classmates during the Hour of Code Week. She is also Vice President of her school’s chapter of National Honor Society and a leader in the school’s New Student Group. Outside of school Anna enjoys being a junior member of Continental Ballet Company and has performed in five full length classical ballets. Anna has been a Sunday School leader for the past four years. She enjoys volunteering and has volunteered at the Twin Cities Marathon and the FANS 24 Hour Race for the past six years. Anna is still undecided where she will go to college next year to pursue her interests in aerospace engineering.
Senior at Wayzata High School
Katherine is at State runner-up. Her early interest in technology was fostered by collaborating with her FIRST Lego League team for several years in various roles, including programming, building, and research. Her creative side shines through in volunteering with school musicals, specifically mentoring middle school students in costume design. Katherine is a member of National Honor Society and recently completed her senior volunteer project with Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners. She plays the clarinet and enjoys performing in concerts, Spirit Band, and Marching Band. Katherine embraces the cold winter months of Minnesota by competing on the Wayzata Nordic Ski team. She enjoys all areas of technology, particularly coding in Python, designing websites in HTML, and graphic design in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Katherine plans to major in engineering or computer science.
Senior at Columbia Heights High School
Uyen Nhi (Nina) Dinh, a State runner-up, started as a programmer in her FIRST Robotic team and eventually became the captain of the team. At first, she was very scared and was afraid to try new things. But after being assigned by her mentor to the electronic/software part of the robot, she learned to get out of her comfort zone to try new things and learn more technical vocabularies, skills, knowledge, and teamwork; eventually falling in love with the programming part. She strives to gain more knowledge every year to help her get a head start, and has already taken a number of classes at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. An example is that she learned more about LabVIEW functions and how to use different applications to make a product image. Nina’s goal is to one day be a great programmer and develop new software to help humankind. She plans to attend the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and major in software engineering. She also plans on volunteering to help her high school robotics team by being an encouraging mentor to try new things. Nina also would like to take part in the Solar Car Challenge that occurs every year at the University of Minnesota because the challenge fascinates her and sparks her creativity.
Senior at East Grand Forks Senior High School
Erin Olson is a 2015 National runner-up (top 15% of award recipients in the nation), 2015 State award winner and a 2014 State runner-up. She is an active member of her school’s Jazz Band, Drum line, Speech Team, and Knowledge Bowl Team. Erin started programming in her 9th grade year and fell in love with the creativity and logic that it required. Her junior year, she was a programmer and web designer for her school’s FIRST Robotics Competition team. In addition, Erin is the president of her local Business Professionals of America chapter. Through BPA, she competes in the events of Visual Basic and Java programming. Erin qualified and competed at the National BPA conference during 9th, 10th, and 11th grade. Upon graduation, she aspires to go to college and get a degree in Computer Science.
Senior at Wayzata High School
Ariana (Ana) Pooley is a current National runner-up (top 15% of award recipients
in the nation), a State award winner and a 2014 State runner-up. Ana has always loved computers, but it wasn’t until she took AP Computer Science as a sophomore that she realized how much she enjoyed programming. She is proud to be the founder and organizer of her school’s programming group, and an active member of her school’s FIRST Robotics programming team and a Co-Captain of Business Professionals of America (BPA). Ana’s interests in computing are varied. She has placed regionally for BPA in SQL Database Fundamentals, Network Administration (using Microsoft), and qualified for nationals in the Mobile Applications Event for her Android weather app. She also enjoys programming in Java, C++, and HTML/CSS, mentoring students at a local CoderDojo and LEGO League, and attending Hackathons – such as Codeday and Hacking Generation Y. After graduating, she intends to pursue a double major in Computer Science and Mathematics.
Senior at Rosemount High School
Kali Regenold is a State award winner. She started programming during her sophomore year independently at Codecademy. Her technology interests really took off when she enrolled in an Accelerated Placement (AP) Computer Science course at Rosemount High School. She now realizes her great fortune to have so many technology classes to choose from, one of which is a databases class she is currently enjoying. The high school offerings have provided her the opportunity to expand her knowledge and reach into the computer science world. Her teacher recommended she apply for the NCWIT award. Doing so, exposed her to an amazing opportunity to participate in a YouthSpark Live event at Microsoft. As for the future, she plans to fuse her computer science and electrical engineering interests to help her determine the career options that are best suited to her passion and interests. She is currently undecided about her college choice. At this time, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are top of the list.
Senior at Wayzata High School
State award winner Amelia Rolf has been a member of her school’s FIRST robotics team for four years and a captain for the last two years. Until spending the summer after sophomore year at the Summer Academy in Applied Science and Technology at the University of Pennsylvania, Amelia had no experience with code beyond basic HTML. While at Penn, she learned to program her trio’s handmade robot in C through a process of trial, error, and help from the teaching assistants. Though she was one of the few participants with no prior programming instruction going into the competition, by the end, Amelia’s robot was the only one that never had a coding-related malfunction. Throughout her junior year, Amelia participated in a program that allowed her to work with a graduate student mentor at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Minnesota. While she was there, she worked on a program that would allow several robots to share a changing station intelligently, rather than on a first-come, first-served basis, and picked up a little bit of Python. Now in the second half of her senior year, Amelia has finished her school’s AP computer science class, and looks forward to incorporating programming into her college education and future career.
Senior at John Marshall High School, Rochester
Freshman at Apple Valley High School
Atalanta Stoeke, a State runner-up, has been using computers since she was a toddler, but has only been taking them apart to figure out how they work since she was in the fifth grade. She has experience building computers from scratch, working with CAD, and has done coding with LabVIEW and Robot C and, just for fun over the summer months, Atalanta also learned HTML from Codecademy. She is most proud of the fact that she is a founding member of the first and only FIRST Tech Challenge team for Apple Valley High School (they are an all-girls team!), as well as on the FIRST Robotics Challenge team. When Atalanta is older, she plans on going to college to study computer engineering and/or programming. She would like to work on developing common household robots (such as Pepper or Asimo) that can help people with their daily lives or help with other issues such as taking care of the elderly or the mentally or physically disabled. Atalanta would like to design and build a robot that would expand on the skills of the other robots by carrying out a conversation with its owners as well as help them with daily tasks such as making food and doing the laundry, but would also be able to contact help if needed.
Freshman at Eastview High School, Apple Valley
Tracey Treat is a State runner-up. She was offered a very special opportunity to work with her middle school to develop an App for a math class as part of the school district’s Beta Program. Working closely with the tech coordinator and the math teacher, and provided help from her mentors, she was able to develop an app that is currently being reviewed by Apple. If successful, this App will be on the App Store and will be used to help students and parents with managing homework and learning. She has gone outside of the classroom to learn more about programming and she was the youngest attendee of numerous technology conferences, with the most recent being DevOpsDays MSP and MinneDemo 18. She has been able to feed her interest in computer programming by mentoring in CoderDojo with Scratch, AppInventor, and Finch Robots. She has been trained with AppInventor through Technovation MN. She has also attended RailsBridge events, is an active member of Girl DevelopIt, and also participates in the PyLadies group. No matter the subject, Tracey pursues excellence and this is evidenced by her winning the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence for demonstrating great leadership and a high GPA.
Teacher at Rosemount High School
Brian is a graduate of South Dakota State University with BS in Math with a minor in Computer Science. Brian taught mathematics in Yankton, SD after graduation and followed that with a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the Univer-sity of Oregon. He then spent two years in Paraguay, South America with the US Peace Corps working as a math teacher trainer. He taught 9 years in Mitchell, SD before teaching the last 15 years at Rosemount High School in Rosemount MN. The last 5 years Brian has taught AP Computer Science, starting with one class of 15 students to currently having 3 sections with 80 students. The school also now offers an Advanced Computer Science class and next year will also begin offering Computer Science Principles. Brian is currently the vice-president of the Minnesota chapter of CSTA, and he has participated in or helped lead a variety of computer science work-shops in the area over the past few years. Brian’s wife Marta teaches at Rosemount with him and his oldest daughter Maria is currently a student in the Advanced Computer Science course and his youngest daughter Natalie will be taking the CS Principles course next year.
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.
Craig Borey, Columbia Heights High School
Lois Fruen, Breck School, Golden Valley
Matt Gray, CoderDojo, Minneapolis Chapter
Abby Hagel, Genesys Works – Twin Cities
Tena Hanson, East Grand Forks Senior High School
Tika Kude, Wayzata High School
Jim Lynch, Apple Valley High School
Suzanne Oh, College Possible
Meghan Peterson, Mayo High School, Rochester
Thomas Reinartz, Rosemount High School
Mary Sorensen, John Marshall High School, Rochester
Krystal Stackhouse, Genesys Works – Twin Cities
Timothy Velner, Duluth East High School
Joel Volm, Prior Lake High School
Anna Wilson, College Possible
Donald Winston, East Ridge High School, Woodbury