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.”
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...