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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Five local students top technology awards in computing

Sep 21, 2020 11:31AM ● By Julie Slama

West High’s Marianne Liu, of Sandy, was an honorable mention award-winner of the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing. (Photo courtesy of NCWIT)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

A Sandy high school girl recently was named regional winner of the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing and another, honorable mention.

Hillcrest High freshman Abigail Slama-Catron was honored March 7 as she “significantly demonstrated interest and aptitude for computing.” She was one of the 16 regional winners and received a joint engraved crystal trophy for the high school as well as individual crystals, scholarship opportunities and technology prizes.

West High’s Marianne Liu, also of Sandy, was an honorable mention award-winner. Rising Star awards went to Kaitlyn Lowe, of Brighton High and CTEC; Ashley Hillstead, of Beehive Academy; and Grace Haglund, of Olympus High.

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing honors ninth- through 12th-grade students for their computing-related achievements and interests, and encourages them to pursue their passions. Award recipients are selected based on their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing, as demonstrated by their computing experience, computing-related activities, leadership experience, tenacity in the face of barriers to access, and plans for post-secondary education. 

Slama-Catron has participated six years with robotics teams where she has learned engineering, problem-solving, principles of construction, working collaboratively on a timeline and how to communicate—the latter as she mentored a team from the School of the Deaf and the Blind while knowing little sign language. She also said through her experiences she has learned to think outside the box to identify a problem and find possible solutions. She recently was a teen panelist for a national computer science conference and is meeting with NASA officials to introduce astronomy activities to local Girl Scouts. Her career goal is to be a NASA capsule communicator.

Other area regional winners are Manya Nair, Riverton High; Katelyn Swain, JATC; Maili Vu, AMES; Maya Heesch, Providence Hall; Sanjana Kargi, Hillcrest High; and Sydney Leister, Mountain Ridge High.

Area honorable mention awards went to Cynthia Perez-Pacheco, GTI; Tea Flores, Herriman High; Katheryn Wesley, AMES; Lillian McElheny, Riverton High; Quinn Quinley, Riverton; Tiare Jorquera, GTI; Shae Harmon, Murray High; Samantha Wilhelm, Murray High; Kayla Bacon, Herriman High; Michelle Chiem, Herriman High; and Maria Feist, Herriman High.

Area Rising Star awards, for those who are starting out in their pursuit of studying computing, went to Hannah Braeger, Herriman High; Alayna Pinales, GTI; and Madisen Homer, Murray High.

Since 2007, nearly 17,000 students have received an Aspirations in Computing award and regional affiliate award programs are hosted in 79 locations nationwide by NCWIT member organizations—a national network of universities, companies, nonprofits, and government organizations working to increase the influence and meaningful participation of girls and women from every community.

According to its website, NCWIT was chartered in 2005 by the National Science Foundation and is a nonprofit community that convenes, equips, and unites change leader organizations to increase the influential and meaningful participation of girls and women—at the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation, and disability status—in the field of computing, particularly in terms of innovation and development.