Jessica Z. '22 and Lucy Z. '21 Earn Computer Science Honors

Melissia Mason
Emma Willard School is excited to announce that two of our students have won National Honorable Mention Awards for the 2020 National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing awards. Jessica Z. '22 and Lucy Z. '21 were two of 360 girls selected from more than 4,700 amazing, talented young women to receive the honorable mention distinction. The awards recognize these students’ aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing, as demonstrated by their computing experience and activities, leadership, tenacity, and future plans.

Computer Science and Mathematics Instructor Chiara Shah has been nominating girls for Aspirations awards since 2014. She shares, “I have never had a student win a National Award, so to have two of them in the same year reflects the depth of talent among students currently enrolled in Emma Willard School computer science courses.”

Jessica’s interest in computer science grew out of seeing a friend use Scratch to create a function that solved a complex mathematical question. This experience motivated Jessica to teach herself Scratch and Python. She later participated in a Hackathon and subsequently helped create a website for teachers and students to explore project-based learning. This past summer, Jessica attended the Summer Science and Engineering Program at Smith College, where she studied game design and robotics design. She is passionate about community service and is always looking for ways that her aptitude for computing can be used for good. Ms. Shah shares, “Jessica has an infectious enthusiasm for learning. No matter what we are learning—the concept of abstraction, or compression algorithms, or the digital divide—she always wants to know more.”

Lucy’s first technological innovation, Waterloo, employed a sensor within plant soil to pump water from a fish tank when it sensed dehydration for a period of time. Another sensor in the fish tank delivered water quality data back to an app that allowed users to remotely monitor and control settings. In the summer of 2018, Lucy studied how computers can use convolutional neural network models to recognize objects within an image for fire detection. This past summer, Lucy had the opportunity to study logic in computer science at Stanford University. She worked on a project to train computers to distinguish natural language, collecting and analyzing thousands of words of text corpus to generate logic algorithms that allow computers to detect the extent of urgency in a message. Ms. Shah recalls when Lucy taught herself the new programming language used in the VEX Robotics Competition. “I highly respected Lucy for being able to work through this problem independently. She has consistently been a top student, finishing projects with ease and helping other students. She even asks for extra problems to solve as challenges!”

As a benefit of their awards, Jessica and Lucy have access to a network of other students honored, connections for summer internships and jobs, and networking event opportunities. 

Please join Emma Willard School is commending Jessica and Lucy on this impressive honor!
    • Jessica testing the team's robot

    • Lucy with her robotics teammates

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