BC students receive national recognition for computer science abilities

Recently, Brookfield Central’s very own Payal Ahuja (‘17) and Laurel Roskopf (‘20) garnered a National Award for “Aspirations in Computing” (AiC). In addition, seniors Sofia Khan and Sophie Bohr received an Honorable Mention and an Affiliate Award, respectively. AiC is a prestigious scholarship-bearing competition for female high school students with a passion for technology. It is sponsored by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), and is structurally tiered so that it encompasses recognition at the national and local levels, including all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories.The award itself is often referred to as “NCWIT AiC”.
All three of the Lancers expressed their gratitude towards their computer science teacher, Mr. Osterberg. Bohr states, “I’m glad he encouraged us to enter because I wouldn’t have known it existed without him!” Ahuja further mentions that “[she] found out about this award through Julia Schmidt (‘15), who had also applied and won this award.” She goes on to credit Schmidt for not only passing on her knowledge of the program, but also for encouraging her to apply.
The application process requires students to write six essays and submit a recommendation from a teacher. Khan adds, “They asked you about your experiences with computing, and how you’ve improved, been exposed to, and plan to incorporate computer science into your future.” Recipients are then chosen for their demonstrated interest and personal achievements in computing, proven leadership skills, academic abilities, and plans for future studies. The NCWIT AiC is categorized into not only Affiliate Awards, including Honorable Mentions, but also National Awards. The latter award winners receive various physical and monetary prizes and a trip to the Bank of America headquarters Mar. 3-5. This year, in Wisconsin, there were 30 Affiliate Award winners and 22 Honorable Mentions.
For Ahuja, the mission of NCWIT is very close to her heart. She won the Affiliate Award last year, and since then, she has volunteered her summer teaching at the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. “With the power and reach of technology today, it is extremely important and beneficial to have a diverse set of ideas in the industry,” she said. Moreover, Khan believes that applying “was really helpful for girls who are interested in computer science fields, which was really awesome.”
The NCWIT AiC undoubtedly shines a light on the gender gap in the technological industry. In fact, Bohr encourages, “I think girls especially should take [AP Computer Science] because only 18% of computer science degrees in the United States are earned by women, which is ridiculous and I hope [that] changes in the near future.”
As a closing thought, Ahuja remarks, “I think sometimes computer science can seem extremely intimidating and a lot of women aren’t encouraged to pursue it. Hopefully, with programs like NCWIT, that can change. The gap in gender is a really important point to talk about and take effective steps to close.”