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Contests Can Benefit Both Students and Teachers

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CSTA Board member Shirley Miranda with her students Namrata Das and Noa Glaser.

Recently I attended NCWIT's Aspirations in Computing Southern California Awards Ceremony in Santa Ana, CA. Two students from my COSMOS (California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science) cluster on "Computers in Everyday Life" had won awards. I was invited to the event as their teacher (and probably because I wrote letters of recommendation for them). Regardless of the reason, it is always great to hear from the organization if the students won an award and to be invited to the ceremony.

The Aspirations award was done in conjunction with a conference that was being held. This allowed the young women who won the opportunity to see the work currently being done by university students and to speak to a panel of students and professionals. As a student, I would have loved that. As a teacher, I love it. Young woman (and men too) don't hear often enough the potential for being a part of the computer science/engineering fields. There can be a feeling of isolation if they don't know where to look. Often, the students going into the fields are fairly introverted to begin with and aren't going to seek out a community. But if they know the community exists, they gravitate toward it.

Not only were the young ladies in high school given the chance to talk with the students presenting their poster boards, but were explicitly told that their award isn't simply about a one-time meet and greet to receive their award. They are part of a larger community of organizations and companies that want to help them network and provide support. That they are expected to give back and participate.

These young women are already interested in pursuing CS as a field. We need to keep them there. I think what NCWIT is doing with their Aspirations awardees is a great step in the right direction.

You can find out more about Aspirations in Computing at http://www.ncwit.org/award/award.index.php

Shirley Miranda
CSTA Board of Directors

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