Growing community of women in tech: ‘You Belong Here’

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2019 AiC award recipients. Courtesy Photo

Last month, the University of New Hampshire Manchester hosted the National Center for Women in Technology  Aspirations in Computing (NCWIT AiC) New Hampshire affiliate award ceremony. The award recognizes young women at the high school level for their computing-related achievements and interests. Over 100 awardees, guests, and members of the public gathered to celebrate the accomplishments and passion of this year’s 41 recipients.

For many, the keynote speech by DEKA electrical engineer, Lauren Shum, was a highlight. Delving into the history of computer science, she explained that the field wouldn’t be what it is today without the contributions of women. Despite this, the computing industry has had a history of making women feel like they don’t belong. Shum, a past NCWIT award recipient herself, pushed back, sharing her own experience finding belonging and asserting that belonging requires only one’s interest and eagerness to learn. She encouraged recipients to try at least one computing course in college and gave examples of fields and careers they could pursue with their computing skills. With computing skills, she said, “you can do anything, and you belong here.”

Lauren Shum of DEKA delivers keynote. Courtesy Photo

Award recipients then participated in a hands-on Arduino workshop hosted by Seacoast School of Technology students and teacher Norm Messa, in which participants created a stop light system and music box. Many participants cited this as their favorite part of the event.

In a concurrent session, guests attended a panel of women in STEM which included Karen Jin, computing professor at UNH Manchester; Joanna Marcotte, The Founders Academy teacher and this year’s NH educator award recipient for her advocacy for growing computing courses in local schools; Gunjan Choudhary from Autodesk; Sabra George, UNH Manchester student studying Analytics and Data Science; and Lauren Shum from DEKA. The panel was facilitated by NCWIT’s AspireIT program manager, Kate Pickle.

Award recipients participate in hands on workshop. Courtesy Photo

Parents described the panel as “inspirational” and “useful,” and one parent said, “It was good to see industry representation. That is really important for me as a parent.”

The best part for us, however, was the presentation of the awards. Recipients each gave a short but meaningful speech after receiving their trophies about how they were introduced to computing and what they hoped to accomplish in the future. In the words of one family member, “Loved that the award winners were able to speak. Fantastic!”


Sabra George is a student at University of New Hampshire at Manchester studying Analytics and Data Science. Sabra was Team Lead of her high-school robotics team and has a passion for math and strategic problem solving. She is actively involved in UNH Manchester’s STEM Discovery Lab and has recently founded a Women in Technology Club.


 

In her role as the STEM Discovery Lab Coordinator, Emily supports the collaborative effort between UNH Cooperative Extension and UNH Manchester of the STEM Discovery Lab located on the Manchester campus. Emily was an English as a Second Language and English Language Learner educator for youth and adults in the greater Manchester and Seacoast areas for over 8 years and was the project assistant for the GATE CITY Project (Getting All Teachers ESOL Certified in Two Years) at UNH Manchester from 2012 to 2015. Emily earned her B.A. in international studies from The Ohio State University and her M.Ed. in secondary education from UNH Manchester. She is the mother of two active teenage boys and loves spending time outdoors.