Jessica Z. '22 and Manu B. '23 Earn Computer Science Honors

By Melissia Mason
Two Emma Willard School students have won National Honorable Mention Awards for the 2022 National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing Awards. Jessica Z. ’22 and Manu B. ’23 were two of 400 selected from more than 3,500 amazing, talented young computer scientists to receive the honorable mention distinction.
The NCWIT awards recognize 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 her best students for Aspirations awards since 2014. She shares, “Jessica and Manu’s work demonstrates how computer science can be used to solve problems in any discipline. They have taken their passions and created meaningful, impressive, and sophisticated applications.”

Jessica Z. ’22
A second-time winner of the NCWIT National Honorable Mention award, Jessica is a student who goes above and beyond. Her first project after coming to Emma was a simple clicker game, which she turned into a more complex app adding features using a concept called collision detection, which hadn’t yet been taught in class. After volunteering with an organization called Free Lunch, Jessica was inspired to find a way to use technology to solve problems related to food insecurity. Her idea is to use AI to analyze photos of crops to find diseases. She found a professor at a local university who agreed to mentor her in the project, then began collecting 4,000 pictures of vegetation, from both websites and images she took from her camera. After coding the model in Python—including image processing using a convolutional neural network—she built a website with a user interface (UI) for both Windows and Mac devices. She did all the pre-project research, data collection, neural network building, parameter adjustment, results analysis, and UI coding herself. Ms. Shah shares, “The level of detail in Jessica’s projects is professional, and the extra coding that she does above project requirements impresses me to no end. Her motivation is inspirational, her desire to do good in the world is admirable, her abilities are exceptional, and she has a joy of learning that is infectious.”

Manu B. ’23
Ms. Shah says that Manu breathes code. Last spring in AP CS Principles, as class was partially online, Ms. Shah recorded coding lessons and gave students a week to learn each lesson and complete a project. Manu’s projects were always completed within hours of posting the lesson. Even before enrolling in the class, Manu had begun teaching herself coding. She found YouTube tutorials on how to build clones of popular websites such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. She spent the summer learning ReactJS, HTML/CSS/Javascript, how to work with firebase databases, and started working her way through the Harvard CS50 course. Manu is currently working on coding an app that will connect local nonprofit organizations with volunteers. She feels an urgency to complete this project as soon as she can in order to help our community. Manu has pulled other students into her sphere, getting an artist to design the UI and another student to compile a list of organizations who could benefit from the app. Ms. Shah shares, “In my years of teaching CS, I have never had a student with as much talent, motivation, and creativity as Manu.”

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

Please join Emma Willard School in congratulating Jessica and Manu on their impressive honors!
    • National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing Award winners Jessica Z. ’22 and Manu B. ’23

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