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Midvale Journal

Two Hillcrest students top technology awards in computing

Sep 21, 2020 12:15PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Two Hillcrest High girls recently were awarded regional winners of the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing.

Senior Sanjana Kargi and freshman Abigail Slama-Catron were honored March 7 as they “significantly demonstrated interest and aptitude for computing.” They were two of the 16 regional winners and received a joint engraved crystal trophy for the high school as well as individual crystals, scholarship opportunities and technology prizes.

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing honors ninth- through 12th-grade students for their computing-related achievements and interests, and encourages them to pursue their passions. Award recipients are selected based on their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing, as demonstrated by their computing experience, computing-related activities, leadership experience, tenacity in the face of barriers to access, and plans for post-secondary education. 

Kargi recently created a machine learning model that can predict mutations in the transcriptional activity of protein p53, a tumor suppressor whose mutations are the cause of more than 50% of human cancers. Her project took her to Intel International Science and Engineering Fair as well as HOSA’s international leadership conference. She sits on the student advisory council to the Utah State Board of Education, held leadership positions with her school’s National Honors Society and placed first in the state Technology Student Association’s extemporaneous speech competition.

Slama-Catron has participated six years with robotics teams where she has learned engineering, problem-solving, principles of construction, working collaboratively on a timeline and how to communicate—the latter as she mentored a team from the School of the Deaf and the Blind and knew little sign language. She also said through her experiences she has learned to think outside the box to identify a problem and find possible solutions. She recently was a teen panelist for a national computer science conference and is meeting with NASA officials to introduce astronomy activities to local Girl Scouts. Her career goal is to be a NASA capsule communicator.

Other area regional winners are Manya Nair, Riverton High; Katelyn Swain, JATC; Maili Vu, AMES; Maya Heesch, Providence Hall; and Sydney Leister, Mountain Ridge High.

Area honorable mention awards went to Marianne Liu of Sandy, West High; Cynthia Perez-Pacheco, GTI; Tea Flores, Herriman High; Katheryn Wesley, AMES; Lillian McElheny, Riverton High; Quinn Quinley, Riverton; Tiare Jorquera, GTI; Shae Harmon, Murray High; Samantha Wilhelm, Murray High; Kayla Bacon, Herriman High; Michelle Chiem, Herriman High; and Maria Feist, Herriman High.

Area Rising Star awards, for those who are starting out in their pursuit of studying computing, went to Kaitlyn Lowe, Brighton High; Ashley Hillstead, Beehive Academy; Hannah Braeger, Herriman High; Alayna Pinales, GTI; Madisen Homer, Murray High; and Grace Haglund, Olympus High.

Since 2007, nearly 17,000 students have received an Aspirations in Computing award and regional affiliate award programs are hosted in 79 locations nationwide by NCWIT member organizations—a national network of universities, companies, nonprofits, and government organizations working to increase the influence and meaningful participation of girls and women from every community.

According to its website, NCWIT was chartered in 2005 by the National Science Foundation and is a nonprofit community that convenes, equips, and unites change leader organizations to increase the influential and meaningful participation of girls and women—at the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation, and disability status—in the field of computing, particularly in terms of innovation and development.