It’s nothing new for older generations to grumble about “teenagers these days.” To hear some tell it, today’s teenagers do nothing but stare at screens and play video games all day. And while there may be a small kernel of truth in that accusation, it is certainly not the whole story. Teenagers are stepping up and surprising us in many ways, showing us just how capable they are at creatively addressing challenges.
We celebrated a group of these amazing teenagers recently at the 2018 National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing award ceremony at the University of New Hampshire Manchester (UNHM). The award honors young women at the high school level for their computing-related achievements and interests.
These young women are definitely not just staring at screens and playing video games. They’re using technology to solve problems and make the world a better place. Senior Gloria Kelley spent two summers volunteering at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory and hopes that by studying marine biology and computer science, she can help to improve research methods surrounding marine life.
Meera Kurup, the New Hampshire High Tech Council’s 2018 TechStudent of the Year, developed ALZPoetry, an app that allows families to record and recite poetry for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, which helps reignite old memories and inspire happiness.
Founders Academy freshman Sarah Fung developed an app that focuses on eye health in the digital age. Others want to use their skills to address climate change, 3-D-print kidneys, improve cybersecurity, and create opportunities for learning foreign languages.
According to Penny Rheingans, director of the Center for Women in Technology at the University of Maryland, girls are typically more interested in careers in which they can help others and make the world a better place. Making girls aware of the range of science and engineering careers available — and their relevance to society — will help attract more women to these fields.
“Young women want to do something that matters,” says Rheingans. “They grew up in the shadow of national defense, cyber security, artificial intelligence. They want to help solve problems.” These Aspirations in Computing Award recipients are a shining example of putting that desire to solve problems into action.
At this year’s award ceremony, sponsored by Autodesk, recipients were encouraged to continue to pursue their passions by a panel of women in industry from Autodesk, Geneia, Dyn+Oracle, Aoibri, UNHM and NCWIT, along with NH State Representative Terry Wolf.
“Be an advocate for each other,” said UNHM student and Aoibri employee Maggie O’Brien. “When you have an opportunity to encourage other students or young women who may not have the confidence, invite them to be part of a team or work with you.”
Many of the recipients are already doing just that — forming coding clubs, volunteering with youth groups, leading robotics teams, organizing Hackathons, and tutoring other students.
Don’t you just love teenagers these days?
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.