Starkville Daily News - - FO­RUM -

The Na­tional Cen­ter for Women and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy (NCWIT) rec­og­nized 58 stu­dents at The Mill Satur­day. The stu­dents are win­ners of the cen­ter's Award for As­pi­ra­tions in Com­put­ing, which rec­og­nizes high school women for com­put­ing-re­lated in­ter­ests and achieve­ments. The award also comes with a stack­able $500 schol­ar­ship should they choose to study com­puter sci­ence at MSU af­ter grad­u­at­ing high school.

Three stu­dents from Starkville High School were rec­og­nized: Rachel Adair, Cassie Ja­vorsky and Kari Op­pen­dal. SHS STEM teacher Denise Adair also re­ceived an award for her lead­er­ship in get­ting young women in­ter­ested in STEM fields. In ad­di­tion, He­len Peng, a stu­dent at the Mis­sis­sippi School for Math­e­mat­ics and Sci­ence from Starkville also re­ceived an award. Peng re­ceived an ad­di­tional award at the na­tional level.

“Women are very un­der­rep­re­sented in com­puter sciences and en­gi­neer­ing, and they're very ca­pa­ble of go­ing into these fields, and na­tion­wide and in Mis­sis­sippi, they're very un­der­rep­re­sented,” Denise Adair said. “I'm just very ex­cited that I do have girls who are think­ing about go­ing into these ar­eas, be­cause if they go into it and they keep their grades up, they're pretty much guar­an­teed a job out of col­lege.”

Ja­vorsky, who has been a part of the SHS RoboJack­ets robotics team coached by Denise Adair, dis­cussed her in­ter­est in com­put­ers. As a mem­ber of the RoboJack­ets, Ja­vorsky has used com­put­eraided de­sign (CAD) to de­sign three sep­a­rate ro­bots. Her CAD work has been rec­og­nized on a re­gional level at robotics tour­na­ments.

“It's re­ally fun to get to do these things,” Ja­vorsky said. “I feel happy when I'm do­ing them. It's en­ter­tain­ing to me, and it gives me a lit­tle chal­lenge. I also like get­ting to meet oth­ers through those things and mak­ing friends.”

Ja­vorsky said she was con­sid­er­ing a ca­reer in me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing.

“It's a pro­gram that Mis­sis­sippi State started in 2013 in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Na­tional Cen­ter for Women and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy,” said MSU com­puter sci­ence pro­fes­sor Sarah Lee. “It's an awards pro­gram that NCWIT hosts at the na­tional level, and Mis­sis­sippi State is host­ing at the re­gional level. It's to rec­og­nize young women who are in­ter­ested in and have as­pi­ra­tions for us­ing tech­nol­ogy and com­put­ing in what­ever their ca­reer path is.”

Lee said she hoped to cul­ti­vate an in­ter­est in com­put­ing in young women, and help them reach their ca­reer goals. She also em­pha­sized many girls go­ing down other ca­reer paths would still need com­put­ing skills.

“Once they re­ceive this award, they be­come part of a com­mu­nity,” Lee said. “They get no­tice of schol­ar­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties, and they just have ac­cess to women all over the coun­try in a men­tor­ing ca­pac­ity.”

In or­der to get in, stu­dents' ap­pli­ca­tions are re­viewed by mem­bers of NCWIT, and then by a se­lec­tion com­mit­tee at MSU.

Like Denise Adair, Lee em­pha­sized the dis­par­ity be­tween the num­ber of men and women go­ing into com­put­ing fields.

“We need ev­ery per­spec­tive at the table that di­ver­sity will bring,” Lee said. “We're de­sign­ing tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions for the fu­ture, and we need those dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives at the table.”

(Sub­mit­ted photo)

Starkville High School ju­nior Cassie Ja­vorsky, left, was rec­og­nized with a NCWIT Award for As­pi­ra­tions in Com­put­ing, which rec­og­nizes high school-aged women with an in­ter­est in com­put­ing. SHS STEM teacher Denise Adair was also rec­og­nized for her role...

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