Three girls from Salem Hills and Springville high schools have placed in a state computing contest.
Meghan Taylor, Sierra Davis and Brittany Messerly entered the National Center for Women's Information & Technology contest in the fall, and were notified of their standings earlier this week. Davis and Messerly were named state winners, and Taylor a runner-up, for the 2012 Utah NCWIT Aspirations in Computing award. Only 10 applicants were selected for the prize, and 10 runners-up throughout the state.
A junior at Salem Hills, Davis applied for the award because of her interest in digital photography. She illustrated her validity as a candidate for the award by highlighting her accomplishments and specific skill set in computer technology.
"In my application, I wrote about how I taught myself how to use Photoshop and used those skills to improve my digital photography," Davis said. "I've had several pieces in community art shows, and I've even sold a couple."
Though Davis admits that photography is a hobby, she plans on making a business out of it, featuring and selling her photography on a website that she'd set up and manage. Davis prefers capturing nature and landscapes on film. She plans on attending Brigham Young University and hopes to major in special effects and 3-D animation with a minor in photography.
"Computer science is an amazing field for young women," said Vicki Allan, chairwoman of the NCWIT Utah Affiliate Aspirations Award Committee. "Jobs are dynamic and exciting. Salaries are good. Job opportunities are amazing. According to Forbes, the top job for 2013 is in computer science, but jobs ranked Nos. 4, 6, 8, 11 and 15 are also in computer science. What unbelievable opportunities. I am always amazed at how many women pick professions in which salaries are low and job opportunities miniscule. I hope this award will help to get the word out. Computer science is for women."
According to Allan, there were more than 50 applicants for the awards from across Utah.
"While NCWIT has been active for several years, Utah has not had its own competition until this year," Allan said. "We are so pleased to see schools and advisers actively involved in preparing young women to make a difference in the world of computing."
Allan works in the computer science department at Utah State University.
Recipients of the Award for Aspirations in Computing have gone on to college where most are either majoring or minoring in science or technology. Some winners have visited the White House, worked for Disney Research, been selected as Windows 8 testers, studied the impact of One Laptop Per Child, been invited to speak at LEGO headquarters in Denmark, built robotic prosthetics in a university lab, interned at top tech companies and won other computing accolades and scholarships.
"I was extremely surprised," Davis said, recalling how she felt upon learning that she was a winner. "I applied last November and didn't hear anything about it for months. It's pretty cool. I'm excited."
Taylor, a senior, is Salem Hills's Business and Marketing Sterling Scholar. Taylor said the work she did in AP classes and to apply for the Sterling Scholar award prepared her for the application process with NCWIT.
"The AP classes were challenging but worth it. They taught me to work hard and meet deadlines. It can be hard, but it's fun and worth the effort," Taylor said.
Taylor intends to use technology in the future as a veterinarian.
She will be attending Weber State University next year on a presidential scholarship. She plans on majoring in zoology and aspires to enroll in the pre-vet program.
The three girls will be presented awards on March 23 at a dinner hosted at the University of Utah; each can bring three guests. At the ceremony they will receive prizes, including cash, T-shirts, calculators and scholarships. National winners get a trip to the national ceremony, $500 in cash and a laptop. National runners-up, Davis and Messerly, will receive a certificate.
For additional information about NCWIT and the Aspirations in Computing Award, visit www.ncwit.org. Individuals and companies interested in supporting the Utah NCWIT affiliate may contact Vicki Allan at email@example.com.