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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Kitt in the city

Kitt Kitt Vanderwater grew up in suburban Chicago and was both a 2008 national Aspirations in Computing Award recipient and an Illinois Region winner. After receiving the award she attended North Central College, a small, liberal arts school in the suburbs of Chicago. Kitt chose this college because it was close to home and the tuition was relatively inexpensive. By moonlighting as a waitress, Kitt managed to graduate debt-free! Looking back, Kitt says she thinks North Central College did an adequate job of teaching her computer science, but she emphasizes how critical and helpful it was to have won the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. "I truly can't recommend computer science, the Aspirations in Computing program, and [NCWIT Director of Strategic Initiatives] Ruthe Farmer enough. I am crazy active on the Facebook group because I think it's important to connect with people. Through this group we've developed this really cool community of people that are helpful not only in a mentoring way, but also a 'vote for my contest entry' way, or a 'do you think I'm crazy but I really like this idea' way. I pretty much love that."

Kitt attributes the lion's share of her success to her persistence in applying to *everything* — literally everything she could get her hands on opportunity-wise — while in college.

Throughout college, beginning in her freshman year, Kitt participated in Google FUSE, a program that connects underrepresented students to other computing majors. She did two summer internships with Google, was sponsored by the National Science Foundation to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and received scholarships from Vanguard and Microsoft. Upon graduation she was offered fulltime positions at Facebook, Microsoft, and Google.

Kitt is currently a software engineer at Google, where she works on security related to Google+. "My job is great (I love my boss, the food and the work too, probably in that order)," she says. She lives in "a sweet apartment" in San Francisco and says, "When I'm not at work, I use my hard-earned cash to take flying trapeze lessons and hike around the Bay Area." Kitt managed to get some travel under her belt too — she spent six months living in the south of Spain after her first internship, and then spent a month in Costa Rica with her boyfriend before starting work at Google. She credits her background in computing and her consistent internships and fulltime work with landing her so many opportunities.


PAYING IT FORWARD: What does gardening have to do with computer science?

Bri As an undergrad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC,) Bri Chapman (a 2012 Illinois Affiliate Aspirations in Computing Award recipient and national runner-up) saw that many of her younger peers simply did not understand the real-world impact computing can have on their everyday lives. So the computer science major applied for and received an AspireIT grant for her outreach program, GEMS (Girls Engaged in Math & Science). GEMS will provide 50 middle school girls with the chance to participate in computer science, engage with a community of peers, and receive mentoring during a week-long camp this summer.

AspireIT is a pilot program that pairs Aspirations in Computing Award recipients with NCWIT Academic and K-12 Alliance members to to bring computing programs to middle school girls around the country. Bri currently is writing the curriculum and schedule and plans to have the campers collaborate on developing an App that helps people plan their gardens with an eye towards reducing food waste. "Garden planning is definitely an important component of reducing food waste since food grown at home is less likely to spoil on its way to being eaten," Chapman explained. She eventually hopes to develop an app that can match consumers with organizations that donate excess food to shelters and soup kitchens, and can facilitate the distribution of food scraps to compost for urban gardens around the city.

"Every year, Americans throw away so much food, much of it perfectly edible. It's lost in every part of the food chain — from farms, where farmers plow under perfectly edible crops because it costs less to do that than to bring them to a food bank, to grocery stores that overstock and then throw out perfectly good food because it fails to meet standards of perfect shape and colors that customers have come to expect … many stores end up throwing out edible produce because of blemishes," says Chapman. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Supermarkets throw out $15 billion in fruits and vegetables each year.

"My hope is that computing can impact the food industry so that food can be distributed to people who need it," said Chapman."Those of us who want to pay for perfect produce are already free to do so."



Richard Richard Guenther, the 2012 Colorado Aspirations in Computing Educator Award recipient, teaches computer science at Skyline High School in Longmont, Colorado. Mr. Guenther has helped bring computer science to Skyline's diverse student population. Working with the University of Colorado through the GK-12 NSF program (which provides engineering PhD students to help create hands-on learning opportunities in K-12 classrooms,) he has created a full curriculum of computing classes ranging from Intro to Programming to Applied Software Engineering. Mr. Guenther also has worked with area tech firms to arrange internships for his students, and in 2012 he helped establish the MAD (Mobile Apps Development Team) at Skyline, allowing students to earn money and experience producing applications for area investors and organizations.

Mr. Guenther says he learned to program on a Commodore VIC-20 (with a whopping 5K of RAM,) and has helped promote free and open source software throughout his career. His current project with his students is establishing the Skyline Creative Commons, a collection of original digital art and sound creations to serve as an online repository for students in the years to come.

With Mr. Guether's help, Josie Lamp (2012 and 2013 Colorado Affiliate Aspirations in Computing Award recipient) and other Skyline High School students recently produced a film, "Styling Strings: Female Skyline Superstars Working to Change the Stereotypes in Computer Science." There was a preview of the film shown at the Colorado Affiliate award ceremony on April 14, followed by a full screening at Skyline High.


WHAT'S GNU: Aspirations on the Road – Next Stop Vienna, Austria

Chloe High school sophomore Chloe Grubb (2013 New Mexico Affiliate Aspirations in Computing Award recipient) is headed to Vienna, Austria, courtesy of her aptitude in robotics. Chloe has been invited to attend and present at the European Conference on Educational Robotics 2013, which gives students real-world engineering experience as they work in teams to design, build, and program a pair of autonomous robots for regional and international competitions. The event's organizer, Gottfried Koppensteiner, invited the School of Dreams Academy student to speak after meeting Chloe last year at the Global Conference on Educational Robotics, where she participated with a "team" comprised of herself and two robots (normally a team is between four and eight students.) Koppensteiner found that remarkable and invited Chloe to give a talk about her experience, thinking she would serve as an excellent example to Austrian and other European girls. "We are really happy that she will give a talk as well as participate at our PRIA-Open Program at ECER," said Koppensteiner.

Anyone interested in robotics and STEM education is encouraged to attend the Global Conference on Educational Robotics, where each year middle school and high school students, educators, robotics enthusiasts, and professionals from across the world gather to connect with peers, discuss technology-related ideas, and cheer on their favorite teams during two exciting autonomous robot tournaments. Student teams pit their robots head-to-head in a fast paced, non-destructive, regional Botball tournament. "We hope this will be a step forward in introducing Botball to Europe and connect American students with European students … perhaps a new exchange program," added, Koppensteiner.


CHECK IT OUT: Aspirations in Computing recipient projects on Piggybackr

Aspirations in Computing recipients around the country are putting their technical skills to use to help others, teach younger students, or just create cool new things with technology. Check out Auditory Hindsight, a Google Glass app utility for the deaf conceived by University of California at Davis sophomore Alexa Adams; Ivie League for 4-H, a project by Melissa Ivie to teach robotics to students with incarcerated parents; or MedED, an Android tablet app to help non-English speaking and illiterate farm workers access healthcare information and services, designed by Princeton undergrad Marina Nogueira. What do all these projects have in common? They are thoughtful, innovative, and led by young women. You can check out all the Aspirations in Computing projects raising funds for a good cause — or make a donation to the projects — on Piggybackr.


Aspirations in Computing is supported nationally by Microsoft, Bank of America, Motorola Solutions, Google, Intel, Bloomberg, and Northrop Grumman.

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