NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing

I had an amazing day on Saturday in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I attended the Bank of America Technology Stars of the Future awards ceremony for the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing.  If you’ve been following along on this blog, you know that I’m chairman of NCWIT (the National Center for Women & Information Technology).  I’m proud of a lot of things that NCWIT does, but after attending the Aspirations in Computing awards I think it has moved to the top of my list.

We gave awards to 2^5 (32) young women (all in high school) for their computing-related achievements.  At the awards ceremony Lucy Sanders (NCWIT’s CEO) and I read out descriptions of the accomplishments of each winner.  They are remarkable young women doing awesome things with computers, especially around robotics and research.  Bank of America – who sponsors the awards – was a gracious host, put on a delightful event, and awarded each winner $500 and a laptop (most of which were opened and up and running before the evening was over.)

I got to Charlotte midday on Friday.  After hiding in my hotel room for a few hours grinding through email and phone calls, I went out to dinner at Mac’s Speed Shop with Lucy and Ruthe Farmer (the excellent NCWIT staffer who runs the entire awards program) – we had beers and BBQ (veggie BBQ for me) and managed to avoid the bikers.  I crashed hard and slept 12 hours, waking up in time for the intro lunch with the award winners and their parents.  At lunch, I sat at a few different tables, met the young women, and heard a few stories.

After lunch, Bank of America did a full afternoon of show and tell for the attendees at their innovation labs.  I went for a three hour run in Charlotte – basically heading south for 90 minutes and then turning around.  It was a perfect day (60 degrees and sunny) and I got a good feel for a bunch of Charlotte’s neighborhoods.  During the run, I pondered how incredible the young women were that I’d met.  The cliché “these kids are our future” definitely applies and whenever I encounter young people like this it gives me a renewed sense of hope and optimism.

When I got back to the hotel, I called Amy and asked if she’d be game for us to add on to the award and give each winner a $1,000 scholarship for college from our foundation.  Not surprisingly Amy agreed and, as part of the award ceremony, each winner got this as a special bonus award.

Among the seniors that I met, one was going to Wellesley (where Amy went to school) and five have been accepted to MIT (two have committed; the other three cornered me to talk about my views on MIT).  Stanford, Caltech, Columbia, and a bunch of other schools were well represented.  I’m pretty sure that every one of the winners is planning to go to college, although a few have several years to go before they have to decide as there was one freshman winner, a few sophomores, and a number of juniors.

I invoked my superpower Sunday morning and slept the entire flight home, partly as a result of recovering from my Saturday run.  A day later I’m still thinking about the great things all these young women did and the incredible futures they have in front of them.

Finally, a huge thanks to Bank of America for their ongoing support of NCWIT and these awards.